How to Retain Customers For Life

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customer retention

As a business owner or marketer, you likely face a similar set of challenges every day.

  • How will you attract new customers?
  • How can you keep your customers engaged?
  • How will you create a sustainable model for revenue growth?
  • How can you add automation throughout the entire marketing process?

In today’s ever-changing consumer environment, it will take all this and more to retain your customers for life. One of the most effective models for how you can make this happen is called customer lifecycle marketing.

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How (and why) to Define a Targeted Audience for Your Marketing Campaign

targeted-audience

targeted audience

The very first step in your content marketing plan should be to pick your target audience. You’d think this would be common sense; however, skipping this step is actually an extremely common mistake.

The reason it’s such a common mistake is that marketers fear that by really focusing their message on just one audience, they will “lose out” on the hundreds/thousands/millions of other potential customers that aren’t a part of that audience.

The truth is that the benefits of targeting one niche actually outweigh the negatives.

In today’s post, I’m going to walk you through the process that you should follow to select a niche, as well as give you some examples of success.

How Knowing Your Target Audience Affects Content Strategy

Why Should You Pick a Target Market?

The reason that picking a target audience is so important comes down to this: the benefits of doing so far outweigh any downside that you can ever think of.

Hedgehog-Strategy

The Hedgehog Strategy

In the book, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, Jim conducted an extensive study on what makes great companies – as opposed to just good ones – and in the book he talks about something he calls the Hedgehog Strategy.

The point of the strategy is this: you need to find a market that you can totally dominate.

Do you think you could be the #1 marketing agency/consultant/SEO firm for everybody in the entire world? Not likely! There is simply too much competition for you to have any hope of achieving that.

Instead, as Jim points out in his book, great companies are extremely selective about who they are targeting, thereby significantly increasing the odds that they can achieve the #1 position in the mind of their audience.

I agree with Jim Collins and I think that a really killer inbound marketing strategy has to start with picking a very specific audience to create content for. If you have a different opinion, please share it down below in the comments.

How to Define a Targeted Audience

Defining your audience is not as hard as you might think. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to walk you through some ideas and strategies that you can use.

First, let’s use Apple as an example, and look at how they are using the Hedgehog strategy.

Do you think that the people who work at Apple are deeply passionate about creating amazing products?

Definitely.

So, with that in mind, do you think it would make sense that a suitable audience for Apple would be a group of people who believe what Apple believes? Again, I think the answer is yes.

For example, I’m a loyal Apple customer. I own an iMac, a Macbook Pro, an Apple TV, an iPhone, and an iPod mini.

Why?

Because I believe that ease of use and a killer design is more important than a bunch of technical details that I don’t care about – and I’m willing to pay more for it.

define a target market

Alienware Hardware Display Page, Notably Different Than The Clean Apple Look

If you go to Apple’s website, you will see that all their messaging is for people just like me. The technical details are there, but they aren’t front and center like they would be with a company like Alienware.

Unlike Apple, Alienware makes PCs for gamers, and these folks are deeply concerned with technical specs and performance. While I’m sure Alienware’s customers enjoy a pretty looking computer, I’m equally sure that aesthetics have very little to do with their buying decision. Theirs is all about performance.

Do you think Alienware cares one bit about regular PC users that don’t play video games? Nope.

Do you think Apple cares one bit about highly price conscious buyers? Nope.

Both of these companies are successful because they know exactly who their customer is and they direct their entire marketing effort to reaching more of them.

Now that we covered why having your target market clearly defined, let’s talk about how to learn more about them, as well as to establish two way communication.

Researching and Connecting With Your Target Market

When it comes to researching and connecting with your target audience, there are several strategies that I suggest you use. They include:

  • Talk to them

Conduct research on:

  • Twitter
  • Discussion Forums
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Surveys
  • Magazines
  • Facebook

For Twitter, forums, and social networks, make sure that when you first start out that you spend the bulk of your time answering questions for other people. When you do this, the other people in the community are going to become interested in who you are, and when they do that, they will naturally think, “Hey, Dave is a cool guy. I wonder what else Dave has done?” Once you have established yourself as a knowledgeable person, the participants in these communities are going to come and check out your site.

So, with that said, lets have a look at some ways to use each resource.

Primary Research: Talk to Your Customers

If your organization already has a large customer base and you are looking to gain insights into how to attract more of your best customers, there is a very specific, unscripted process that will work well.

The goal here is to understand their psychographics (why they buy) more than their demographics (who they are).

This is a process that I first learned when I interviewed Adele Revella of Buyer Persona Institute. Adele has been doing this type of work for over 25 years and really knows her stuff.

During our interview, she gave me a high level overview of the process that she uses.

First, the person asking the questions cannot be involved in the company’s normal sales process. If they are, the customers aren’t likely to be as candid as they might otherwise be, and if that is the case, you aren’t going to gain the insights needed.

Step 1: Make a list of the customers & prospects who evaluated your firm, as well as your competition

You will want to interview people that chose your firm, as well as those that didn’t.

Step 2: Have a member of your team reach out to each one of them to have a conversation

The key, says Adele, is to not tell your customers that you are doing market research. Instead, you simply want to talk to them about the story of their decision to buy.

To do this, start off with the following question: Dave, take me back to the day when you first decided to look for a new [type of product] and tell me what happened?

According to Adele, it is absolutely critical that you start the ‘meat’ of the conversation with this question. You aren’t looking for random facts (like can be collected with a survey). Instead, you are looking for the story of their decision to make a purchase.

As you listen to them, you want to get them to expand on the story by asking all sorts of follow on questions.

For example, you might ask:

  • How did you come up with a list of potential suppliers?
  • Once you have this list, how did you narrow the list down?
  • Were there things on their websites that affected your decision?
  • If so, what types of things?
  • How else did you research and evaluate each company?
  • Did other people’s opinions factor in?
  • Who were these people?
  • What types of questions did you ask them?
  • Who else in your own company did you collaborate with?
  • What kind of input did they have?
  • Why was it helpful?

As you might guess, there are a LOT of questions that you are going to ask and this is only just a sample. They key is to always focus on the story…as well as asking why they made each mini-decision along the way to the major decision.

If you’d like to dive deeper into how to develop your buyer personas, check out Adele’s blog.

Primary Research: Talk to Your Prospects

If you don’t yet have a large customer base, without a doubt, talking to the people who are in your target market will give you the most insight, when compared to the other strategies below.

In my case, I regularly reach out to people with an invitation to talk to be about being a guest on my podcast. If you don’t have a podcast, tell them you want to talk to them about some research you are doing for an article or ebook that you are writing.

By being a reporter, as opposed to a salesperson, you will find that it is much easier to get your calls and emails returned.

When my prospect accepts my invitation to connect, I start off the conversation by asking them about their business and they results they have achieved. I do this because I am genuinely interested in finding out if they would be a good person to have as a guest on the podcast.

As you might expect, the longer we talk, they more rapport that is built, and when that happens, I can now very easily finished up my pre-interview by asking them some of the following questions:

  • Who would you really like to hear interviewed? (tells me who their influencers are)
  • What blog(s) do you regularly read?
  • Who do you follow on Twitter?
  • What social networks do you spend time on?
  • What magazines do you read?
  • What conferences do you attend?

These are just a few of the questions that I suggest you use. I’m sure you can think of many more.

In addition to these questions, you should also invite your contacts to invest 5 minutes to complete a more detailed survey. The goal of the survey should be to gain additional insights into:

  • Budget levels and/or spending patterns
  • Consumption trends
  • Preferred suppliers
  • Problems they are looking to solve
  • Which conferences/blogs/podcasts/magazines they rely on most

To host the survey, I suggest you use Survey Monkey.

The goal of my conversations is to gain an understanding of:

  • What are the top issues/problems they are looking to solve?
  • What language do they use to describe these problems?
  • Who influenced any decisions they made about choosing a solution provider(s)?

What to Do With This Data

Secondary Research

Once you have completed this primary research, I suggest you take some time to visit the websites that were commonly mentioned as being popular with your target market.

When looking at these sites, you are looking for data on:

  • What are the top posts?
  • What kinds of language is used?
  • What kinds of offers are made?
  • Who is commenting on their content?

Find the Most Popular Posts

To find the top posts, just look for the ones that are shared the most on social media. Posts with a lot of comments are also a strong indication of what is popular.

To help you analyze a site’s posts, I suggest you use Quicksprout’s free tool because it will save you heaps of time.

When you run the report, make sure to click the ‘social media analysis’ tab so you can see which pages were the most popular.

Hubspotanalysis1

Twitter

When I first learned of Twitter, I thought it was a huge waste of time. Now that I’m starting to figure out how to use it, I have actually become a pretty big fan.

When it comes to finding your target audience, as well as connecting with them, Twitter is pretty amazing.

define a target market

The Top Twitter Page For PC Gamers

For example, let’s suppose that you wanted to find and connect with hardcore gamers. How could you use Twitter to do that?

Well, you could first begin by looking for “best gaming PC” on Google. When I performed that search, that is how I found out about Alienware.

Next, I pulled up Alienware’s profile on Twitter and noticed that they had 62,672 followers while following only 130 people.

This tells me that Alienware is an influential brand in this space, and, because they don’t follow very many others, I also know that their 62,000 followers are legit. (whenever you see a Twitter profile that has a lot of followers, it can often be the result of their following a lot of others, just to get them to follow back)

The next thing I will want to know about Alienware is how much social authority they have.

Social Authority is ultimately a measure of influential activity. As such, it highlights content that is successful on Twitter. When you find users with high Social Authority, you’re finding great marketing strategies to analyze and mimic. And we think that this will help you be more successful with Twitter. – @peterbray

To discover how much social authority someone has, I’ve been using SEOmoz’s tool, FollowerWonk. This is a powerful tool that makes discovering influential Twitter accounts extremely easy.

As you can see below, Alienware is the most influential Twitter account for the phrase “pc gaming”. When I sorted by the Social Authority column, Alienware’s score of 61 put them on top.

Social Authority, in its simplest definition, is based upon re-tweets. If your tweets get lots of retweets, you have a high social authority. If you want more details on the science behind this, just read the entire post.

Follwerwonk

Followerwonk for PC gaming tweets

So now that we know Alienware has a high social authority and plenty of followers, the next move is to start connecting with the people that follow Alienware so that you can learn more about them.

To do that, I used FollowerWonk to find people that are interested in Alienware and then I sorted them by social authority. As you can see below, there are two users who actually have more social authority than Alienware. These are definitely people that you want to connect with because they can help you to really understand your audience (by speaking with them), as well as to help you to connect with your audience (by retweeting your tweets).

As you can see below, when I mouse over Anthony Wheeler, his total engagement is 56%. This is a good person to know if you want to learn more about hard core PC gamers, as well as to have the potential to get your content in front of many of them.

Followerwonk Alienware example

Another Example of Followerwonk Capabilities

Even if you don’t have FollowerWonk, Twitter is a total goldmine because it gives you the ability to search the Twitter stream. You can search by topic, by hash tag (#PCGamer) or by user. As soon as you do, you are going to find endless ways to better understand what your target audience is interested in.

Discussion Forums

For virtually every topic you can think of, there is at least one discussion forum. Finding them is easy. Just go to Google and do a search.

define a target market

Discussion Forums Give You An Idea of Customer Engagement

When you participate in a discussion forum, you are going to see first hand what your target audience is interested in, what keeps them awake at night, and what they believe.

LinkedIn Groups

If your company sells to other businesses, I would strongly encourage that you check out LinkedIn Groups as they are very popular among the B2B crowd.

As you can see below, for the phrase, “marketing automation” there are 209 groups; the first of which is called Marketing Automation Experts. This group has 4,218 members, 142 discussions this month, and is considered to be very active.

Do you think that if you were to join this group that you could learn more about people who are interested in this topic? Do you think you could connect with a few of them? Do you think you could position yourself as an expert (assuming you are) within this community? Do you think that if you did, some of them would want to know more about you?

define a target market

Surveys

Each time I’ve started a new blog, I’m quick to incorporate surveys into my auto-responder sequence. I do this because I want to quickly find out who is reading my blog and what they are interested in. The more I learn about my audience, the better chance I will have of creating content that they will enthusiastically share with their respective followers.

For example, because I ask every new subscriber to complete a welcome survey, I have know that 15.9% of my audience are marketing agency owners, 41% are small business owners and 34% are solo-preneurs.

define a target market

Surveys Give You An Analysis of Your Customers, It Might Be Different Than You Imagined

I also know that lead generation is the #1 challenge faced by my audience, hence why I do so many interviews to address that topic.

SurveyMonkey-challenges

Once you have access to this type of information about your audience, you are now in a position to either create more content for the audience you have, so you can expand that audience, or, if the majority of your readers aren’t the exact audience you intended to have, you can now publish more content that will be of interest to your intended audience, as well as to share that content on the social networks where your audience hangs out (which we discovered by using Twitter to ask them directly).

Side Note: Check out this post on How To Know What To Write About.

Magazines

If you don’t yet know that much about the demographics of your targeted audience, and you don’t yet have a following, don’t despair. There is another way to very easily get the demographic profile for virtually any marketing that you could possibly be interested in.

There isn’t a magazine around that isn’t staffed by a crack team of researchers, all of whom have invested countless hours in market research. You can bet they know exactly who their customer is and exactly what that customer wants to buy.

They know this because they need this information to pass along to their prospective advertisers.

Don’t have the funds for a research team that big? No problem. Just piggy back on the magazines.

For example, when I googled “Field and Stream Media Kit” I was taken right to this page. Once there, all I did was click on the demographics link to learn more about this audience. With just a few clicks of the mouse, I now know the median age, percentage that are college grads, percentage that are employed, percentage that served in the military, etc…

define a target market

Even Magazines Have Online Options

Facebook

Let’s suppose that I wanted to know how many people in my local area and into hunting and fishing. How could I find that out? With Facebook, this is actually pretty easy to do. It won’t be 100% perfect, but it will be close enough to help you assess if your size of a certain targeted market is large enough.

To do this, just pretend as though you are going to create a paid ad on Facebook. You don’t have to actually publish the ad, but you do want access to the data that going through the ad creation process will give you.

As you can see below, when I did a search for people that lived in San Diego, aged 37 to 57 (I chose this because of the median age from the Field and Stream media kit), who are interested in hunting and fishing, I see that there are 11,120 people. If that number is too small, or too big, you can easily just make changes to your search criteria, and from those changes, you are likely to make some valuable distinctions.

For example, if I change the gender from men only to men and women, the 11,120 increases to 16,840. So, for this topic, I now know that the ratio of men to women is roughly 3:2. For this particular example, the answer was rather obvious beforehand, but that probably won’t be the case in many other niches you could be looking at.

define a target market

Facebook Analytics Usually Offers Interests and Engagement With Brands

I’m sure there are more tools than this, and if you have some good ones to suggest, please be sure and share your thoughts down in the comments below.

Common Mistakes

For companies with an established customer base, the most common mistake is assuming that you understand the psychographics of your best customers. Having a very strong understanding of your company and it’s products is by no means a guarantee that you really understand why your best customers bought.

If you are a younger company, by far the most common and most expensive mistake is trying to be everything to everyone. If you are going to get traction with your target market, you need that market, at least initially, to be as focused as possible so that the content you produce is highly relevant.

If you try to be everything to everyone, you will end up being nothing to no one.

Another common mistake is not taking the time to listen to your audience to really find out what they want (not the same as ‘why’ they buy). Surveys are a terrific way to do this, and if you do, be sure to ask questions that are both multiple choice as well as open-ended, because, while harder to analyze in aggregate, it’s those open-ended questions that can provide you with some really valuable insights.

No point in creating content that doesn’t draw your target audience’s attention. –Natalie Sisson

It’s also worth mentioning that one of the goals of your initial marketing campaign to your newly defined audience should be to further test and validate your chosen niche.

Let’s Recap

A marketing plan that doesn’t begin with a thorough understanding of the needs, wants, and desires of a very specifically designed target market isn’t really a marketing plan at all. Instead, it’s more of a hope and a prayer, and when it comes to business, hope is not a strategy.

Getting clear on who your target audience is has never been easier. Start by investing time in one-to-one conversations. After you have done that, use Twitter, discussion forums, LinkedIn Groups, Surveys, Magazine media kits, and Facebook to gain additional insights.

Not making use of these free resources will significantly reduce the effectiveness of anything that you try, and, even worse, could spell the end of your company before you ever have a chance to really get going.

Put the time into identifying your targeted audience and you will have taken a step that so many small business owners don’t put nearly enough focus on, and you will be in far better shape as a result.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

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Digital Marketing Strategy: The Story of How Infusionsoft Became One of The Fastest Growing Companies in America with Scott Martineau

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Scott Martineau 4 in x 6 in x 300 dpi x FC

Would you like to put customer acquisition on auto-pilot? Just imagine how it would feel to have a steady stream of qualified leads that were all happily buying your products on a regular basis.

Now imagine that they were also telling all their friends to do the same.

Sound too good to be true? Well…you might be surprised to learn that if you embrace something called Lifecycle Marketing in your business, that one day in the not too distant future, the scenario I’ve just described will become the reality of your business.

In this episode of the Bright Ideas podcast, I’m joined by Scott Martineau Co-founder of Infusionsoft, ranked by Inc Magazine as one of the fastest growing software companies in America. Infusionsoft is absolutely amazing software and I can’t imagine running my business without it. If I did, I’d have to work far longer hours and my business wouldn’t be nearly as easy to run as it is now.

I recently attended ICON, Infusionsoft’s annual business conference, and while there, I had a chance to meet Scott and ask him to come share his story here on the show.

When you listen to this interview, you are going to hear Scott and I talk about the following:

  • How they first started Infusionsoft back in 2001
  • Why their first idea wasn’t working and the one thing they changed that has allowed them to create a 400+ person company today.
  • Why Goldman Sachs invested $54 million in Infusionsoft and what this means for the future of small business in general
  • The consulting business model vs the product business model and what you need to understand about the massive benefit of one versus the other
  • The importance of picking a target market and how to do it correctly (20:15)
  • An example of some early challenges and how Scott and his partners turned this challenge into a huge opportunity (26:15)
  • Why it is so important for an entrepreneur to have a strong mind and 3 thing you can do to make yours even stronger (33:15)
  • An overview of Lifecycle Marketing and why to embrace it in your business (39:45)
  • What’s next for small business owners (55:15)

Links Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

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Transcript

Trent: Hey there, bright idea hunters. Welcome to the Bright Ideas
Podcast. I’m your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the podcast for
marketing agencies and entrepreneurs who want to discover how to
use content marketing and marketing automation to massively
boost their business. On the show with me today is Scott
Martineau, Co-founder of Infusionsoft, ranked by Inc Magazine as
one of the top ten fastest growing software companies in
America. Infusionsoft is absolutely amazing software and I
cannot imagine running my business without it. If I did, I’d
have to work far longer hours and my business wouldn’t be nearly
as easy to run as it is now.

I recently attended iCon, which is Infusionsoft’s annual business
conference and while I was there I had a chance to meet Scott
and I asked him to come, I asked him, rather, to come share his
story on the show. Coming up in this episode, you’re going to
hear Scott and I talk about how he started Infusionsoft, some of
the early challenges that they had to deal with and how they
overcame them. We’re also going to talk about why so many small
business owners aren’t realizing their potential in terms of
profitability and revenue growth and what, some of the things
they can do about.

We’re also going to have an overview of something called lifecycle
marketing and how you can put it to use in your business to help
you solve those problems. If we have time, we’re also going to
get into some success stories and I will also link to those in
the show notes.

Before we get into the interview, I’ve got a couple of special
announcements. My tool tip of the week is something called
Optimizely. If you’re not yet running split tests, you
absolutely are leaving money on the table. A couple of months
ago I interviewed a guy and he told me, he scolded me because I
wasn’t yet running split tests on my main opt-in page. I went
over to Optimizely. I got myself a free account, not a free
account, a $20 a month account and I very quickly set up a split
test. You don’t need to know how to write any HTML at all to do
this and within three days I had doubled my opt-in rate. Just to
put that in, the gravity of that into perspective, I would have
had to of doubled my traffic had I not figured out how to double
my opt-in rate. Definitely go check out Optimizely.com.

The other announcement is I’ve got a webinar coming up on lifecycle
marketing and that is going to be a totally free webinar and
we’re going to be talking about the seven stages of lifecycle
marketing and those stages are how to attract traffic, capture
leads, nurture prospects, convert those prospects to sales, then
deliver and satisfy, increase revenue with upsells and generate
referrals. If you could use more customers in your business,
this is a webinar you definitely would like, or you should want
to attend. With that said, please join me in welcome Scott to
the show. Hey Scott. Welcome to the show.

Scott: Thanks, Trent. It’s good to be here.

Trent: It’s a real privilege to have you on my friend. I’m a big fan
of Infusionsoft. I use it to run my business. Love it. Was
actually just showing a guy this morning, earlier on, and he was
using another company and he said, “I don’t really get it,” and
I screen shared with him for about 15 minutes and at the end he
was like, “Can you get them to call me.”

Scott: That’s good.

Trent: I think there’s a lot of that going around but for the folks
who are listening to this podcast, who don’t have a clue what
I’m talking about, don’t know what Infusionsoft is and don’t
know who you are, let’s kind of set the table for where this
discussion’s going to go by first of all, just please introduce
yourself and a little bit about the company that you co-founded.

Scott: Great. My name is Scott Martineau and I started a company by
the name of Infusionsoft, we started this company about 2001, so
12 years ago or so and Infusionsoft really has one purpose, we
exist to help small businesses succeed and I think we’ll talk
more about how that came about but we’re an all-in-one sales and
marketing software provider that specifically focuses on small
businesses and we’re over in Arizona. We’re down in Chandler,
Arizona. We’ve got about 400 employees at the time of this
recording and we’re just, feel like we’re just barely getting
started with what we want to accomplish in the world but that’s
the little bit about us.

Trent: Thank you for that. Audience members, if you’re listening to
this and you are anything from a solo entrepreneur with a
business that’s generating revenue all the way up to somebody
with maybe 20 or 25 employees doing a few million dollars a year
and you feel like you’re struggling with working too much and
not getting enough of the results that you want to get in terms
of revenue, growth, customer acquisition and profits, I think
that you are going to get a ton of value out of this interview
and we’re going to do our very best to deliver on that.

Scott, you had a really big win recently and I think that this is a
wonderful vote of confidence from some very smart folks on the
future of this whole lifecycle marketing idea and your company
in general and it was a $54 million investment from Goldman
Sachs, so congratulations on that.

Scott: Thank you.

Trent: What I want to talk about is the story of how you got there
because not everybody gets a $54 million investment from Goldman
Sachs so you’ve got to be doing something right. Then, so we’ll
spend a bit of time talking about that and then I really want to
talk about, for the people in the audience who are running that
small business and working really hard, what’s this lifecycle
marketing thing all about and how can I automate all this stuff
and so we’re going to do as much as an hour will allow us to do.

Scott: Great.

Trent: Let’s go right back to the very beginning because I think a lot
of people really love the stories at how super successful
companies get created and it usually starts with a why. People
have a problem, you had a problem that you were trying to solve,
if my research is correct. You want to talk a little bit about
that?

Scott: You bet. We didn’t actually have a very clear why when we
started the company. I’ll kind of give you the evolution, but at
the very core of our founder story was that my brother and I
were working for my dad in the family business that he had
started and it’s kind of a funny business. It was a company that
sent balloon twisters, these are like the clown, people that
make clown balloons, that type of stuff. Not necessarily clowns.
They would send these twisters into restaurants and they’d go
make balloon animals for all the kids while they’re waiting for
their food.

Our dad had built this company up to, in about 15 or 16 different
states in the U.S. here and he had this whole thing going but he
had some really weird things that he, not weird, but some time
consuming things that he had to do to make this business run.
One of those things was that every night he’d have to log in to
this voicemail system and he would literally download and delete
200 or 300 voicemails from these balloon twisters that were
checking into their restaurants and Eric and I, my brother were
like, “Dad, this is so old school. Come on. Let’s get with the
times.”

We ended up building for him a website, basically, that allowed
people to come in and check in. It was a web application, which
these things were just starting to become acceptable at that
time and it was awesome for us because we watched what happened
to, finally dad could not have to go make all those voicemail,
call to voicemail, listen to every one, delete every single one.
Check it off in this little database system. All the people
could just do all these things online.

That was kind of the first glimpse for us that we could finally see
how technology would enable a business owner to do something
that needed to get done without having to spend an hour of their
time or two hours of their time to do it. Around that time we
started having this idea, “Why don’t we go start a company
building technology solutions for people that could help save
them time.” We started this company and we didn’t have a vision
of anything. We just knew we wanted to do our own thing. We
didn’t want to go work for a company. We wanted to be our own
boss and all of the possibility for risk or sorry, for reward,
and that meant we had to take the risk and so we started this
company doing custom software development.

That was kind of where everything started right there in the
beginning was a custom software development shop. It was hard.
It was, that’s a difficult business to be in because here we
were starting and we’re trying to go sell custom development to
people, which usually was made up of an estimate. They’d call up
or we’d spend a bunch of time figuring out what they needed.
We’d go give them an estimate, they’d walk us down on the
estimate and we’d cave in and give it to them for less than we
should and we’d spend twice the amount of time.

It was a difficult business to be in but it really, at the very
beginning of our company, it gave us a couple of things. Number
one, our passion for using technology to solve problems was very
real and it was really kind of the thing that got us into the
business but I think most importantly, from the very beginning,
we knew what it felt like to be a small business ourselves. It
was difficult.

We had two different periods of time where we went for months on end,
one time it was between four and five months that we went with
literally no income and as you can imagine, Trent, that’s hard
to go home and talk to your spouse and say, “Come on, honey.
Just hang in there. We’re going to get this thing figure out.” I
think that that time period for us was critical because it kind
of baked into the DNA of our company and appreciation for the
challenges that small businesses go through.

Trent: So very true. Now I know I have a lot of people in my audience
who are not yet a small business owner or are very early in
their small business career so I want to take a very quick
little sidebar here. Let’s talk about business models for just a
quick second. When you started off your consulting business
model and now you’re a product business model and veteran
entrepreneurs, most of us will agree that the product one is
significantly better as a business model. Can you just very
quickly speak to why that is?

Scott: Well, I remember the very first time we got a stack of orders
when we started to sell software like a product and we actually
sold it with recurring revenue attached as well. I remember the
time when Clay and I walked out in the parking lot with a stack
of new customers who had just bought our product and we looked
at each other and said, ‘”Holy cow. This is nirvana. We got new
customers. We don’t have to go build custom software for them
and they’re just coming on. We don’t have to build from the
ground up. We’ve got what they need out of the gate and it was
just a beautiful thing.”

I think it’s a great point, Trent, that business owners need to
really consider the validity of their model. There’s product
versus custom, which is kind of what you’re talking about and
there’s some clear advantages there obviously with the amount of
time you have to spend to create the product to deliver to the
customer, as well as all the estimating. I think there’s also
just some general profitability things that people should be
aware. Does the unit economic of your, do the unit economics of
what you’re offering actually work?

In other words, if we could deliver to you a sales and marketing
system that would, and I’m not talking about software just if
you could double your sales, is that a good thing or a bad
thing? Frankly, some business owners have a business model that
isn’t worth doubling because the economics just don’t work out.
You’ll end up just working yourself silly and really not having
any profit at the end of the day to think about.

The time to have those considerations and to think about that is
really early on and sometimes it takes a little bit of risk. I
remember when we decided to move from custom development to a
product, we had to take one of our employees specifically,
[Shawn], and said, “Shawn, you own all of our custom development
and we can’t be around having a lot of lose ends here. We’re
going to go 100 percent and focus on this product business.”

That was a really risky thing for us because that was our bread and
butter. It was a pretty measly bread and butter but that was it
and luckily he owned in a great way and we were able to go focus
and convert, in our case, convert our service business, custom
development shop into a product business and I’m really glad
that we did. We wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are today
without that.

Trent: No, you wouldn’t have and I wish somebody would have told me
that back in 2001 when I started my glass tech company because
I, like many new entrepreneurs, I just thought, “Well if I could
go out and do X hundreds of thousands or X millions of dollars a
year in sales, surely there’d be profits leftover,” because I
was very naive. It’s, in a consulting model it’s not that easy.
That’s why I asked you to go down that rabbit hole. I’m hoping
that we’ve provoked some thought in somebody who’s listening to
this who’s maybe in the early stage of their business figuring
out, “Maybe I should be thinking about this business model
thing.”

Scott: A lot of it has to do with intent too because a lot of times
I’ve noticed people are, the first phase of their
entrepreneurial venture is actually just replacing their income,
their salary. If that’s really the only goal, there are some
fairly simple ways to do it but I think if you really want to
build a business that has profit, that can operate without you
being right in the middle of everything, you’ve got to really
think hard about the business model and be clear from the get
go.

Trent: Absolutely. However, if you don’t have the cash to do that
there’s nothing wrong with starting this trading time for money
business model and figuring out how you can add some people to
your team like you did so that you can make that transition
without having to maybe bury yourself in debt or give away three
quarters of your company because it’s so hard to raise money in
the beginning when you don’t really have anything that’s worth
much. People, if they’re going to invest at all they want
everything and you get deluded and you don’t necessarily want to
do that.

I am taking us off on tangents. I’m going to bring us back on course.
Why small business? You hear all these companies and they’re
going to go out and they want to sell to the enterprise, they
want to go for the big guns. Why did you decide that small
business was where the opportunity and the gold lied?

Scott: I think part of it was just that that’s where our history was.
We had a passion for what the entrepreneur had to go through and
so we’re just connected emotionally, I think, to the plight of
the entrepreneur. Interestingly, you mentioned it but it is the
natural magnetic force in our space, at least, in the software
space, that people will, companies will come in and they say
that they serve small businesses but in reality, all they’re
doing is using the small business owners as a stepping stool to
get into bigger accounts and to grow up and serve mid-market
companies.

For us, there’s a very big difference between the S in SMB and the M
in SMB and we like to say we’re for the S in SMB because what
mid-size businesses need and what small businesses need are so
very different.

I think if I had to wrap all that together I’d say the
reason is because small businesses are the life blood of most
economies. We feel like it gives people the ability to go out
and to just own and create which is a beautiful process to be in
the middle of and frankly, it’s a lot funner, I think, to serve
small businesses. When we can go and help a small business owner
grow their business and they go from X to doubling or tripling
that business, the amount of satisfaction and joy that they have
is so much, for some reason, I shouldn’t say for some reason. I
know why, but it is way higher than taking, for example, a
manager in a mid-market company and providing them with software
that helps make their life a little bit easier.

We’re connected to the whole livelihood of the business owners and
for a lot of people that’s scary. They want to run away from
that but I think that’s where all the excitement is. We’ll talk
more later but I think more and more people are starting to
recognize how critical small businesses are to our economy and
are recognizing the tool sets that they need. Small businesses
need a very specific set of tools, not just a watered down
version of what a larger company needs. In a lot of ways, they
need a more powerful solution because they don’t have time to
think about, they’re already wearing five hats. They need
solutions that work for them not cause them to have to go
outside of what they’re already struggling with to go create
success.

Trent: I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been a small business owner myself
for 14 years now and that’s really why I started Bright Ideas
because I learned so much in my first couple of years online,
about online marketing, something I knew really nothing about
when I ran Dyrand, my old company. I thought, “Man, there’s so
many people that need to know about this stuff.” It’s been just
an absolute thrill to have the privilege of being able to have
people like you and all the other smart guests on the show
because I get wonderful emails from business owners all the
time, almost daily, saying, “Thank you.” That puts a big smile
on my face.

Scott: I think it’s funny because most business owners, actually none
are required to have any degrees, per se, to start their company
and I like to say they don’t come out, entrepreneurs don’t come
out of the womb in their business really understanding all of
the concepts. There’s a lot of stuff to figure out. How do I
have enough capital to do what I need to do? How do I hire the
right people? How do I build the sales and marketing plan? What
tools do I need to be able to accomplish this? There’s just a
lot of stuff that you have to figure out.

I love that you’re out educating the small businesses because I think
that’s a critical component. I think, as much as I’d like to
think that software’s the only solution and that solves all the
problems, I don’t think it does. I think it’s actually the
education teaching small business owners that really solves a
need that they have.

Trent: That is a wonderful segue for my next question. One of the
things that I think I did a poor job of back when I started my
old business that I got really focused on when I started Bright
Ideas was defining a target market. Really getting specific
about, “Who am I creating this stuff for?” Because if you’re
just going to try and create for everybody you won’t resonate
enough with anybody and it’s very difficult to get traction. Can
you talk, did you guys in the early days of Infusionsoft, at
some point you must have said, “We really need to define who
we’re going after, at least initially.” Can you talk a little
bit about the importance of that and how you did that?

Scott: You bet. For us this has been one of the most challenging
things to solve. There’s a lot of things going on when you’re
trying to identify your target market. One of those is you’re
fighting your natural tendency to expand what you do to meet
everybody’s needs, which I think you said it accurately, when
you do that you really can’t solve anybody’s needs well. There’s
that going on.

We had some interesting challenges because we’re providing all-in-one
sales and marketing software which, in most business owners’
minds there actually are four or five different software
products that exist out there that we’re trying to combine into
one. Our message, we’ve struggled to keep our message simple and
to keep it accurate for people.

We started and we were kind of, we positioned ourselves as small
business CRM software. A lot of the business owners didn’t even
really know what CRM software was even though that was kind of a
big movement. We’ve toyed around with what are we? Are we
marketing automation software, so there’s, when it comes to
positioning, half of it is trying to be able to describe
yourself to your market and the other half is being clear on who
it is that you’re actually going after.

I think, I just can’t emphasize or add my support to what you’re
saying enough, that as the business owner, you’ve got to be
really clear and the approach that works the best is to get
extremely specific first and I have found that when people get
extremely specifically then their ability to grow their target
market increases over time. When you nail it for one, you’ll
create natural segues for other specific target customers but
when you try to just go for everybody, you sound like everybody
else. You’re a watered down nothing and you’ve got to stay
focused. You’ve got to be very clear.

A good exercise, Trent, that I found is that you need to be really
clear as a business owner about who are these people you’re
targeting and what questions do those people have? What are the
things that keep them up at night?

You’ve taught a lot about lifecycle marketing and it’s a helpful
exercise to ask yourself what questions are going through the
mind of my prospect through each phase of my customer lifecycle?
For example, in my case, I might ask myself the question, “Let’s
think about what are small business owners thinking about as it
relates to software before they ever enter our customer
lifecycle? What are the questions that they have?” That might be
things like, “How can I build a sales and marketing plan that’s
going to work? How do I know when I spend marketing dollars,
that it’s going to be on a marketing program that’s going to
actually deliver customers to me?”

Then once they engage with us in our sales process, there’s a whole
new set of questions that come about. “Can I actually use
software? Maybe I’m not very technical and so,” can you hear me
right now, Trent?

Trent: Yes. I can hear you just fine.

Scott: My machine just said there might be a connection problem.
Anyway, if you can become an expert at the questions that your
target market is asking, you will be able to create really
powerful marketing that just is there when they reach for
questions, you can be there to answer them and to establish
yourself in a position where you’re going to win the business.

Trent: For the folks who maybe are newer to Bright Ideas, I want to
mention another interview that I did that we really go into
depth on this topic and that is an interview with a fellow by
the name of Marcus Sheridan. If you go to BrightIdeas.co/27,
it’ll take you directly to that interview. Marcus has a company
called River Pools and Spas and got really good at figuring out
what questions people were asking and then blogging about the
answers to those. Go check out that interview to learn more on
that.

The other thing I wanted to mention, there’s also an article, if you
go to BrightIdeas.co and on the navigation bar, if you go to the
Lifecycle Marketing Guide, there is, it’s divided into seven
sections, if memory serves me correctly. There is an article in
one of those sections that really goes deep into, again, how to
pick your target, How and Why to Pick Your Audience, is actually
the title of the article. It just makes such a huge difference.

My experience with Bright Ideas, I decided that I wanted to get
really focused on marketing agencies and it took me a little
while to do that but if I didn’t do it, I definitely would not
be experiencing the speed of the traction that I’m experiencing
as a result of that. If you haven’t done that yet in your
business, cannot emphasize enough how important that is for you
to do.

Let me go back to my list of questions here and find out where we
want to go to next. A lot of times early on in a business, not a
lot of times, all the time early on in a business we, the
entrepreneur, experience setbacks. Setbacks can be horrible at
the time but in hindsight they can also turn out to be some of
your most wonderful opportunities for discovery. I’m sure,
Scott, that you have many examples of setbacks. I’m interested,
would you bring one up, speak about it and then I want to ask a
couple of follow up questions.

Scott: You bet. Let me just enter a little point here too. Clayton and
I, Clayt, by the way is one of the other co-founders of the
company. We brought him on shortly after Eric and I started this
software company and he and I wrote a book called “Conquer the
Chaos” and this is, we hit really heavily on the mindset that
entrepreneurs need to have when they start their company.

We talk about emotional capital, which is kind of the emotional bank
account that you have and the need for entrepreneurs to be
always adding to that bank account and be very aware of what’s
going on inside your head and we also talk about the concept of
disciplined optimism which is that you are looking at, you’re
willing to look at the facts that surround your current reality
as ugly as they might be but you’re combing that with a
determination that you’re going to succeed and a lot of people
look at that and they feel like you’re just naive to think that
you can be staring that nasty situation in the face but moving
forward. We found that that is one of the keys to
entrepreneurship.

I’ll go back maybe to one of the early dark days. I’ll start there. I
remember when Clayt, my business partner, his wife, who happens
to be my sister, so we recruited my brother-in-law Clayt to come
be in the company and I guess we weren’t fooling [Cherise] and
one day she said to Clayt, “Clayt, this is it, man. Go out today
and find a real job. We’re done with this whole small business
thing.” Clayt came into work with his tail between his legs and
he said, “I’m so screwed because I’m not going to go out looking
for something but I know that Cherise is expecting that of me.”

The reason is because we had just, this was in one of these really
difficult times where we just weren’t bringing in the income and
it was a really difficult thing. Luckily, when Clayt walked in
that afternoon ready to have a little talking to, Cherise met
him at the door and said, “Clayt, I’ve really spent some time
thinking and praying about this and I feel like everything is
going to be okay.” He said, “Good because I haven’t found a job
and I didn’t even go looking.” I’m really glad that he didn’t
but in that case it was flat out a sales and marketing
challenge. We just weren’t bringing in enough business to
accomplish what we needed to.

One of the things that we did in our company was actually, we had the
really great privilege of, kind of toward the end of our custom
software days we found a marketing coach who became a custom
software client. His name is [Reid Hoisington] and Reid taught
mortgage professionals how to be better marketers. Through the
process of serving him as a custom client, he was actually the
key to helping us transition to a product based business instead
of custom software. Part of it was because he was sick of paying
us custom software fees but he took us to these, he said, “Come
to my marketing seminar and I’ll let you get up on stage, you
can sell your software to all of my customers who need it
because I’m trying to teach them these marketing principles, how
to capture leads and how to follow up and nobody’s doing
anything because they don’t have the right tools.”

We said, “Great. We’ll come.” We went to there and we sold the
software. Well as we started going to these marketing seminars,
Reid ended up suggesting that we go to some other folks
marketing seminars, some other marketing coaches. We would go to
these places. We’d help the marketing coach get their business
in line and then we’d go sell at their events. While were doing
that we’re sitting out in the audience taking notes. We’re just
kind of like dumb software developers and we’re like, “Man, that
is a great idea.” We’re hearing all these speakers at these
marketing seminars stand up and talk about a lot of the stuff we
teach in lifecycle marketing. Here’s how you capture leads. Here
are some examples of how you could follow up with those people.
Here’s how you create a compelling offer. Here’s how you could
close the deal.

We had this bright idea one day that maybe we could actually use some
of these marketing principles on our own business. It was just
like the big duh moment of the century. We started to actually
implement this stuff. I’m giving you the solution to the really
difficult challenge that we had and so what we did is we created
our very first educational lead magnet and it was called Six
Secrets to Your Mortgage Marketing Success, or something like
that. Then there was just this thing we would offer that would
teach people. We taught them about the fundamentals of marketing
in a mortgage business.

It was amazing. I remember the day when Clayt walked into the room
where Eric and I were in there doing programming or taking
customer calls or something and he’s like, Clayt was our sales
person at the time, he’s like, “Guys, we are onto something.
This stuff actually works.” What had happened was he got a
string of calls back from people who we had put on to this
automatic drip nurture sequence. We send out this educational
information. We started following up. “Just following up. Did
you get the free report that we sent you? What did you think? Do
you have any questions I can answer?” Then a few follow-ups.

Clayt would get people calling back and saying, “Thank you so much
for following up. I think I’m ready to go.” These are people he
hadn’t talked to before. These were people that had requested
the information, received the education, and by the way, this
education was answering the questions that were going on in the
heads of these mortgage professionals and he was just on fire.
We call that our Infusionsoft moment and a lot of our customers,
they go through that exact same process where they start sending
out these follow-up things, based on some formulas that we
provide them and stuff happens.

I would say that the key when you have setbacks is number one, that
you’ve got to be emotionally strong and you’ve got to be really
clear and aware about what’s going on inside your head. If you
can’t control your thoughts as an entrepreneur, you are screwed.
If you’re the type of person who comes in and is tossed about by
every little thing that happens and you can’t go to that place
where you ground yourself, you’re going to have a really
difficult time. There is always going to be pressure on you as
the business owner that you have to learn how to accept. You
can’t go and blow up your employees because you’re having a bad
day. You can’t get depressed and get down. The job of the leader
of a small business is to help create the vision and maintain
that vision and that takes stability of mind.

Then, I think you’ve got to just learn. Learn the principles and the
practices that are going to create success. In our case we had a
sales and marketing problem and we learned and then implemented
something and sometimes that implementation can be challenging
because you have so many hats to wear but I would say strong
emotional stability combined with learning and executing the
stuff that you’re learning, that’s one example. Maybe I blabbed
on too much with that example but that’s what came to mind.

Trent: Give us two ways that you think that, two tactics, strategies
for emotional strength. Call it your mind workout. You go to the
gym, you pick up the dumb bells and you work out your muscles.
Your mind is another muscle. You’ve got to keep it strong.
[inaudible 33:04]

Scott: Fantastic. One thing I’ve noticed is that reading, reading is a
phenomenal tool to create raw material in your mind that just
keeps your mind active and alert. I didn’t really read a lot
before I met Clayt and Clayt and Eric and I, we started to read
books at the same time and we would talk about them. I just
think, that gives you the ability both to have the education
coming to you as well as providing you with new insights and
you’re able to hear successes of other people. I would encourage
that. That’s a really important part of mental make up and
develop some opinions. You don’t have to love everything you
read but be aware of what’s out there.

The second thing is I actually find that master mind groups is a
really powerful concept that helped us. When we started to find
like minded people that we could be accountable to, it really
helped. Most business owners, it makes sense. They’re out on
their own, so to speak. Sometimes family members don’t
understand them. The people around them don’t. Their employees
may not understand them and it takes connecting with another
entrepreneur that sometimes can just shake you, grab your
shoulders and look you in the eye and say, “Dude, wake up.
You’re thinking about this the wrong way. You’re acting like a
victim.”

I think those two things are just really critical and I’ll give you a
little third one, just because I think it’s important. That is
as hard as it is, you have to spend time in what I would call
meditating and planning, which is you just, you stop the madness
and you get away and it might start out as a couple of hours but
I think it should grow into maybe a day a quarter where you just
let things, just let the busyness go on. Pretend like you’re
sick. For some reason we’re always okay doing this when we’re
deathly sick but we don’t ever create the time proactively.

I’m suggesting that we intentionally create a space were we can just
stop and think and we’ve developed a strategic planning
methodology here that allows us to, we have seven exercises
where we go through, “What are the accomplishments we’ve made in
the recent period? What are our lessons learned? What are our
strengths? What are we really good at? Or our weaknesses, what
are the opportunities, what are the threats?” We go through
exercises like this just to evaluate what’s going on but do it
from a place where I’m not hurried and I’m not rushed and I can
sit down and create a plan for moving forward that I feel
confidence in.

A lot of times that those emotional challenges come because you just
feel the chaos looming or just crushing in on us and you just
need to just ease that up and go spend some time thinking and
you’ll be amazed at how much insight will come to you when you
think about that in an intentional way.

Trent: That was great. You guys are starting to share what you’re
doing with that strategic planning, are you not? I think you
have a name for that and maybe if you do, maybe you could give a
URL if people want more info.

Scott: That’s great. We have, actually it was something that Clayt and
I talked about wanting to do for a long time. We had kind of the
best practices we had used to build our company and we realize
that most business owners want to have those same, they want to
understand how we do our strategy planning and how we do, how we
build our culture and so we created what we call the Elite Forum
and it’s that exact, it’s with that exact purpose is to help
business owners understand what they need to do. Let’s see, I
should know where that is right off the top of my head. I think
if . . .

Trent: You can get it to me after.

Scott: I think it’s actually just Infusionsoft.com/eliteforum, but let
me, yes. That’s exactly what it is. Infusionsoft.com/eliteforum.

Trent: For those of you who are listening in your cars, don’t worry.
At the end of this episode I’m going to give you a way that you
can just send a text and you’ll get all the information. You’ll
get linked to the show notes for this episode and so forth, so
just stay tuned because everything that we mentioned, books,
links and all that will be in the show notes.

I want to mention a couple of things. There’s a book called “Double,
Double,” which is written by the guy who is COO of a company
called 1-800 Got Junk, which is a very impressive growth story
in itself. It’s a book that I’m going through right now and he
talks a lot about creating this painted picture. If this is
something that, what Scott and I’ve just talked about that
resonates with you, either check out the Elite Forum and/or
check out this book called “Double, Double.”

Bright Ideas actually has a master mind group for marketing agency
consultants and marketing agency owners. If you want more
details on that just email me directly, trent@brightideas.co and
I will get you a link to the page. I just can’t remember it off
the top of my head and if I go searching for it I will get
distracted from leading [sounds like], this interview so I don’t
want to do that.

Those are a couple of very good strategies. One more that I wanted to
add and this is why I’m a podcast producer, listen to podcasts.
I, when I’m having those challenging times, I want to listen to
inspirational stories from other entrepreneurs who have overcome
adversity because it makes me feel like, “The challenge that I’m
dealing with maybe isn’t quite so bad after all,” especially if
I’m able to hear the story of somebody who overcame something
more challenging than I did. The beauty of that is you can
listen while you’re walking, running, exercising, driving, what
have you, which is hard to do with a book.

I want to shift gears now, if we can, Scott because I know we only
have 20 minutes left. Business owners, I think, as a whole, I
don’t think there’s anybody out there who would disagree that
they could always use more customers, more leads and more
customers. You mentioned early in our conversation that you guys
had a sales and marketing problem. I think that that’s probably
the number one problem in almost every small business on the
planet. How does lifecycle marketing, and Infusionsoft is built
to support lifecycle marketing, so let’s talk about lifecycle
marketing. What are some of the things that people should be
doing to overcome that, “I don’t have enough new customers on a
regular enough basis,” problem?

Scott: Well first I’ll totally agree with you. I think sales and
marketing is, it’s interesting how connected it is to, I think,
the core challenge that everybody recognizes and that is, think
about one of the key problems small business owner’s face is
they wear so many hats. You go to start a company, you have
visions of more freedom, more time freedom, more financial
freedom, etc. and what ends up happening is you get into this
business and it feels like the business is owning you. You feel
like you’ve got a job and the job is hard, and I think a lot of
that comes because the business owners don’t have the revenue
that they need to hire the people to do what needs to be done.
It’s always, there’s always a battle.

If I’m going to spend my, some of my profits to go hire an employee,
that’s literally taking away from my take home pay and so I
have found that in most cases the answer is that the sales and
marketing part of the business needs to be amplified. Think
about it this way, is there any problem that a small business
owner has that cant’ be solved with more revenue and more
customers? When you have the revenue and you have the capital
and you have the customers and stability there, you can solve
all the other problems. The one that seems to be most
intimidating is getting the customers. I’m totally with you on
that.

Lifecycle marketing is a concept that I think represents a new
approach for small businesses. Most small businesses, when they
think about their sales, they think about it more like a hunter
where they wake up in the morning and realize, “I’m hungry. I’m
going to go out and I’m going to perform some kind of low
hanging fruit activities that allow me to get a customer.” In
our analogy that might represent the person waking up and going
out and finding the next deer and shooting it and pulling it
back and eating for awhile. Then it all, the cycle just repeats
itself and there’s always the next hunt that you have to go on
and you have to always be out chasing and chasing.

Lifecycle marketing kind of flips that on its head and it celebrates
one of the best inventions that’s known to mankind which is the
fence. It’s this idea that the hunter can go from having to be
out there at the mercy of the herd following that person around
to bringing livestock and plants and so forth into their fence
where they have control over that. They now go into a harvest
mode and yes, it takes planning and it takes work and it takes
foresight but it flips everything around. It creates a stability
of life for a farmer, for example, that just doesn’t exist when
you’re living the hunter lifestyle.

The way that we do that with lifecycle marketing is we take our
business and instead of just thinking about it very
monolithically and just saying, “We either don’t have enough
sales or we do,” we actually break the entire experience that
our customers have with us up into seven distinct phases and
that’s why we call it the lifecycle. Just like a plant or a crop
has a lifecycle, customers in our businesses have a lifecycle,
so our seven phases of customer lifecycle, and I know that you
teach this, Trent, but just for the sake of those who aren’t as
exposed to it, we start out by attracting traffic. When we’ve
got somebody’s attention, maybe they’re on our website or maybe
they’re in our store or at our booth, then we want to make sure
we capture the lead. We’ve got to get the people’s information
in exchange for something that we’re offering to them so that we
have the ability to follow up if we want to.

A lot of people have websites or telephone lines or trade show booths
where you have a lot of people coming up to it, visiting your
site, calling on the phone and if they’re not ready to buy
today, they walk away and they’re gone. Again, it’s more like
we’re at the mercy of, if they come back that would be great but
in reality, most of them won’t come back. We teach people to
capture leads.

Then we have some very systematic ways that people can follow up and
nurture prospects. That’s the third phase where the businesses
reach out and provide valuable information to nurture the
relationship so when that person who wasn’t ready to buy before
is ready to buy, we’re the people that are at the top of mind
for them.

Then we actually go and we have different strategies for converting
the sale, so when people indicate that their interest is high
and that they’re a hot lead, so to speak, then we have the
process in place to convert those leads into customers, whether
you’re doing that online or with sales people or just through,
kind of, promotions that you run in your business, there’s
systematic ways. I won’t go through all the details but after
that we make sure we are delivering and satisfying and really
wowing every single customer that comes through the door so that
we can get upsells and so that we can get referrals from our
customers.

I found that when business owners, when the light clicks on and they
realize how much opportunity is sitting there in the business,
it’s awesome to see. For some people, it can feel a little bit
overwhelming. They’re like, “I have a hard time thinking about
my business as it is. You want me to think about all seven
phases?” Well, the goal is not that you go focus on fixing
every single place of opportunity in your business. I think
lifecycle marketing provides a framework where you can go and
identify the next most important thing. For some people, they
already have traffic coming to their website, they need to focus
on capturing more leads. In other cases, people already have a
decent customer base, they need to focus on upselling their
existing customers, not necessarily going out and trying to get
a bunch more leads to the top of the funnel.

Lifecycle marketing provides this new framework for the business
owner to think about building a harvest based business where the
sales and customers are flowing to them and really it comes down
to them being in control. Infusionsoft, our software solution
exists, it really is the only software solution built for small
businesses to manage the entire lifecycle marketing process all
the way from attracting the interest. We just acquired a company
called Grow Social that lets companies create really cool social
media attraction campaigns. Then we have tools that allow the
business owner to capture leads and put all those leads right
into a database that allows them to be really well organized.
Then from there we can, you can initiate automatic drip follow-
up systems using some of our different formulas and that drip
follow-up gets people to bubble up and we have methods that help
you to convert those sales.

We’ve basically taken all of the different phases of customer
lifecycle, all the way from the very first time you hear about
somebody to the time they become a customer, until after they
become a customer, all the follow-up and nurturing we do there
and the collection of referrals and we’ve, I guess to further
the analogy, we kind of created the John Deere tractor that
allows somebody who wants to go to this new harvest based sales
and marketing to do it without having to spend their energy out
on their hands and knees. We allow it to happen automatically.

Trent: That it does for folks who maybe aren’t terribly familiar with
Bright Ideas just yet, if this is your first exposure, make
sure that you go to BrightIdeas.co and you have a look at the
lifecycle marketing guide because in that guide, and you can see
it right up on the Nav bar, you will see an extensive library of
content for each of those seven phases that Scott just talked
about. I have interviewed almost all, and soon it will be all,
of the Infusionsoft ultimate marketers and these are folks who
run businesses, everything from selling collectible trains to
music training to athletic wear to a bed and breakfast in
Champagne, France and they are all sharing on these interviews
how they embraced lifecycle marketing to achieve unbelievable
results in their businesses.

An interview that was just published with a guy by the name of Dustin
Burleson has built an unbelievably successful orthodontics
clinic as a result of his embracing lifecycle marketing and
Infusionsoft. Make sure, it’s all free. You can download it on
your phone, listen to it in the car. There’s just so many golden
nuggets in all of those interviews that you’re absolutely going
to love it.

I want to, we’re running out of time, so we’ve got a couple of things
here, Scott, that we’re going to talk about before we close out.
Is there, for anyone who hasn’t yet heard any of those success
stories, is there one that stands out in your mind that you
briefly would like to talk about? Maybe three, four minutes,
five minutes.

Scott: That’s a really tough question because we have so many
different, I’m going to actually, I’ll give you a little micro
versions of three of them and I’ll do it, probably in three
minutes [inaudible 49:06]

Trent: Perfect.

Scott: I really have, you mentioned our Ultimate Marketer Contest.
That’s something that we do every year at our annual user
conference which is to celebrate a business that’s kind of gone
above and beyond with their marketing. What I love about
watching that is seeing example after example of people who have
created their own version of success.

One of the gentlemen that won the Ultimate Marketer Award very early
on, Jermaine Griggs with Hear and Play Music, he cared a lot
about creating a business that was just turnkey without him
being in the business. He teaches people how to basically hear
music and play it and so I loved hearing his story where he
talked about all the different elements of places where he was
having to spend time that he could just completely automate and
he kind of built this whole turnkey business model to the point
where now he kind of has to figure out what to do with his time
because the system is on auto pilot, and that was really
important for him.

Another one of the contestants, Jeanette Gleason her story was
awesome for me because she and her husband were spending a lot
of money in these marketing programs that they just didn’t feel
like were producing results. I’m sure some of your listeners
have felt that experience before. In their case they were doing
really expensive dinners to try to woo clients and realized,
“This is stupid. Nobody’s really buying. They’re just coming for
free dinners.” She found out about lifecycle marketing, started
to gradually implement different components of it, and for her
it was really about kind of saving her husband’s business.

She was a stay at home mom and finally he said, “You’ve got to come
in and help me figure this stuff out.” She came in feeling
pretty nervous. Not technical at all and really grasped onto
lifecycle marketing and they put some really cool stuff in place
in their business. For them it was really just about re-
establishing the confidence in their business and in their
business model. Today, Jeanette is actually teaching other
financial planners, that’s the business they’re in, about how to
have successful marketing campaigns.

Trent: Let me, I’m sorry. Let me interrupt real quickly. You can hear
an interview with Jeanette if you go to BrightIdeas.co/#11 and
you’ll see how they cut their spend by 90 percent while they
tripled their revenue.

Scott: Who wouldn’t want to do that. That’s awesome. I love hearing
those stories. Then The Rocket Company, they were one of our
presenters this year and they shared their story about how they
took their business from, I think it was just over a couple
hundred thousand in revenue all the way up to two million in
revenue. For them, that was just, they’re really passionate
about their product. These guys are in the business of helping,
it’s kind of funny, they say, “We help preachers to stop giving
boring sermons.” They’re out servicing the market of churches
and they just shared their passion for the work that they do and
how implementing lifecycle marketing and automation for them is
now enabling them to reach more of their target customers, more
of these churches and just to really change their world.

The cool thing is, regardless of what your version or definition of
success is, whether it’s time you want to reclaim or revenue you
want to create or impact or confidence, when you follow the
principles of lifecycle marketing and specifically, I think,
when you can use Infusionsoft, I think for some of your
listeners Infusionsoft would be a great solution, I feel like
you can create your version of success. That’s what’s exciting
for me is that that vision people have for success can be
realized.

Trent: That’s exactly what I’m trying to do in my own business as well
and I’m using Infusionsoft to help me do that. By the way, in
the Lifecycle Marketing Guide on BrightIdeas.co, I am creating
an every increasing library of videos that show how I’m actually
using Infusionsoft in my business.

Scott: Very cool.

Trent: If you haven’t seen any of that stuff, like the guy that I
talked to this morning that I mentioned very briefly at the
beginning of our interview, he’d never actually, he’d heard
about Infusionsoft but he’d never actually seen it and I said,
“Do you want me to do a screen share with you?” He’s like, “Yes.
If you don’t mind.” I did about ten minutes and I showed him
lead scoring. I showed him my engagement campaign, my sales
funnel, my long term nurture, the automated how I register free
people for webinars and then how people get on my show as a
guest and how that’s all automated and he just, I could see him
just going, “Holy cow.” He says, “I had no idea that you could
do this much stuff.” He says, “I thought it was like an email
program.” I think that that is not entirely uncommon for when
people see it. It’s hard to grasp something, the power of
something until you’ve really seen it. Come and check out those
free videos and hopefully you’ll get as excited as this
individual did.

Scott: I love that you’re doing that and I would just encourage the
listeners, when you’re watching that, the temptation is to say,
“That person’s business, Trent’s business is a little different
than mines. Maybe that doesn’t apply.” If you fight that urge,
you will find application and ask yourself the question, “How
can I apply this to my business? What area of my business can I
use a strategy like this?” I think you’ll find that to be a much
more successful line of thinking.

Trent: I don’t think there’s most any, I mean, I think about this
stuff a lot. If somebody came to me and said, “I have a dry
cleaner, could you make me run better with Infusionsoft?” I’d be
willing to bet I probably could. I’m not even an Infusionsoft
consultant so please don’t email me to, but I can refer you to
one if you’re listening to this and you want one. I don’t think
that there is a business around that could not be improved
through marketing automation and Infusionsoft is a great tool
for that.

Let’s wrap up with a little view into the future. What do you see
coming next for small businesses and then we’ll go into, that’s
my last question before we go into the Lightning Round, which is
just a couple of quick ones that I always like to ask.

Scott: Well I think, the Goldman Sachs investment to me was kind of a
symbol and yes, I think it was significant for us to have
confirmation from a really well established company, but I think
even more importantly is that Goldman Sachs and others are, they
realize that the small business market is massive and that
excites me because we’ve been here with our feet cemented hard
into this small business space, helping small businesses succeed
but a lot of people don’t see the vision. I think they’re just
not willing to really understand small businesses.

You can imagine, a lot of businesses, large companies, who have
executives and so forth that have never been through what it
takes to be a small business, it’s hard for them to really catch
the vision but I think people are starting to catch the vision
for small business and that’s exciting to me. That means there’s
going to be more companies being, more companies who serve small
businesses being funded. More people who care and are willing to
go and create solutions for the small businesses. I think it’s a
really exciting time and I think that the technology
advancements that we can provide small businesses give them an
outsized advantage where they can start to look like a big
company and do the things that in the past were limited to only
big companies with massive budgets. I think it’s a really
exciting time to be a small business owner.

Trent: I couldn’t agree more. A couple of episodes from now I’m going
to be interviewing a guy by the name of Dan Norris, he runs a
site or a company called Inform.ly. He’s put, as you’ll hear in
the interview, only about $10,000 into building his software
application and his results, they’re modest at this point and
time. He only started actually selling this stuff a couple of
months ago and he’s up around $700 a month in recurring revenue
and it’s growing every month. He’s adding customers regularly.
The really cool thing is that business model has so much scale.

My old roommate years ago, I watched him do a similar thing and now
his business generates $100,000 a month and there’s two guys.
Two guys. There’s not even an office. Imagine the profit margins
of that much revenue coming in. It’s so incredibly cheap to
start a business now, 2001 when I started my other company, not
so much. It took a lot more. A lot more. I was many hundreds of
thousands of dollars in debt and that was not a lot of fun. If
you’re thinking about it, there has never been a better time to
go out and create a business and change your life.

Here we are in the lightning round, Scott. What are you most excited
about for 2013?

Scott: I feel like this is a game show. Just kidding. 2013, well one
of the things that we announced at our last user conference was
that we are, we’ve created a marketplace for campaign templates,
so it’s interesting that you brought this up but just as you are
working with the gentleman on the call or your friend, and
helping him to see a really specific concrete example of a
marketing campaign.

I’m excited because we’re unleashing a new round of, kind of a new
era where we provide business owners campaign templates which is
just something that’s already a proven strategy and all they
have to do is install that campaign template, go change it so
that it matches their branding and their company and make sure
that the wording works well and all that, but I’m real excited
about that. I think anything we can do to make life easier for
the small business owners, to me is the way of the future. It’s
really where all of our focus is. Totally pumped about that.

Trent: On that note, if you run, if you’re a marketing consultant or
you run a marketing agency and you’re thinking that you would
like to become an Infusionsoft user, if you use my affiliate
link, and they’re all over, there’s ads on the site, I have
built a specific nurturing funnel, webinar, the whole thing, a
year’s worth of content for your business and you get a copy of
all of those campaigns and all of those emails and everything
for free if you decide to use my Infusion link to become, sorry,
my affiliate link to become an Infusionsoft partner. It will
save you a ton of time and then you can go in and customize it
and tweak it and do whatever you do but there’s a year’s worth
of content there for you. Last question then, what is your
favorite business book?

Scott: That’s not a very fair question. A lot of books out there. I
think, I don’t know if [inaudible 01:00:04] is a business book
but one of my multiple reads that I really love is called “Made
to Stick” and it’s essentially a book about how to create ideas
that can be easily transferred from one person to another. The
reason I bring that up in this context is I think that every
business owner, they’re in the business of persuasion and
whether it’s creating ideas that need to work with your
employees or your vendors or partners or customers, I just think
that’s a really critical element to life and I like the way that
those guys talk about creating ideas that are sticky.

Another one I really like is “Banker to the Poor,” that was one that
Michael Gerber turned me on to. It tells the story of Muhammad
Yunus who created micro-financing and I love just, I love
watching him just intentionally go after his vision and not stop
at anything and just pound and pound until he figured out the
system that would work. Really inspiring.

Trent: Terrific. Thank you for sharing that and Scott, thank you so
much for making the time to be a guest on the show. I have
thoroughly enjoyed the interview and I hope the audience feels
the same. If you have questions for me or for Scott, when you
see the post, there’s comments at the bottom. Go ahead and leave
your comments and questions there and I’ll make sure that both
of us are notified of that.

Scott: Trent, thanks for having me, man. That was fun. I love talking
about this stuff and I appreciate you taking the time to have
the conversation.

Trent: No problem at all. You’re welcome to come back at any time.
Take care.

Scott: Have a good one.

Trent: To get to the show notes from today’s episode, head over to
BrightIdeas.co/60 and when you’re there you’ll see all the links
that we’ve talked about today plus some other valuable goodies
that you can use to ignite more growth in your business. If
you’re listening to this on your mobile phone, just text Trent
to 585858 and I’ll give you access to the massive traffic
toolbox which is a compilation of all of the very best traffic
generation strategies shared with my by my many proven experts
that have been guests here on the show.

As well, you’re going to get a list of what I feel are the very best
interviews that I’ve ever recorded and you’ll also get an invite
to my upcoming webinar on lifecycle marketing that I mentioned.

Finally, if you really enjoyed this episode, please head over to
BrightIdeas.co/love where you’ll find a link to leave us a
rating in iTunes and I would really appreciate it if you would
do that. It helps the show to increase its audience the more
feedback that we get. There’s also a pre-populated tweet there
so all you have to do is click the tweet button if you like what
I’ve written and if you don’t like it you can just click the
tweet button and type something else, if you’d like.

That’s it for this episode. I’m your host Trent Dyrsmid. I look
forward to seeing you in the next episode. Take care and have a
wonderful day.

Recording: Thanks very much for listening to the Bright Ideas Podcast.
Check us out on the web at BrightIdeas.co.

About Scott Martineau

scott-martineau-onScott’s mission is to solve the challenges small businesses face in marketing their products and services. He leads the Demand Generation team and oversees marketing activities that drive new prospects and customers for Infusionsoft. His own entrepreneurial experiences and his understanding of what small businesses need enable him to continually evolve our software in innovative and successful ways.

Scott holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from Arizona State University.

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Attn Marketing Agencies: Put Client Attraction on Auto-Pilot

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Lifecycle-Marketing-Guide

What do you traditionally do with the leads that you capture? I am assuming that most of you will call them or send them an email. If they don’t respond, you will call them again or send them another email. If they don’t respond again, you will probably call them again or send them another email.

Now, here’s the real question. What do you do next?

If you are like most agencies, you stop trying to contact the prospect and the lead ends up in the trash.

Do you realize how much business you potentially throw away every single day? Imagine the impact on your business if you could convert an extra 10% of the leads that go in the trash.

Have you ever wondered why it’s so important to nurture your prospects?

followupstats-1

It’s because 81% of your sales happen after you make seven or more contacts to your prospects. Seven contacts! How many of you can honestly tell me you attempt to make seven or more contacts to your prospects.

Please don’t feel bad because 85% of the time, we stop after 1 to 2 contacts.

Have you ever wondered the cost of not making the additional 4 to 5 contacts to each of your prospects? (For the answer to that, check out this post.)

The reason most people don’t stay in touch this often is because they simply forget, or, it’s just too much work. This is where marketing automation can really help.

In the video below, I will give you a walk through of a complete client attraction marketing campaign built specifically for marketing agencies and local marketing consultants.

In this video you will see how I’ve automated:

  • Webinar invitations
  • Webinar follow up
  • Sale opportunity management
  • Long term prospect nurturing
  • and more…

Client Attraction on Auto-Pilot

Get this Marketing Funnel for FREE

As you’ve seen in the video above, Infusionsoft is an incredibly powerful tool for marketing automation. It also does a LOT of other very valuable things…but if I showed them all, the video would have been a few days long 🙂

One of the challenges with Infusionsoft is that when you first get your account set up, it doesn’t come with any pre-built campaigns or content. This means that new users must create all their own and this can take some time.

To help with that, any marketing agencies or marketing consultants that wish to use my affiliate link to sign up for Infusionsoft will receive a copy of the campaign that you saw in the video above, plus a copy of my engagement campaign, and the webinar slides.

Trust me when I say, I will be saving you a lot of time. You will not have to manually re-create anything. Instead, Infusionsoft’s tech support team will simply copy my prebuilt campaigns into your app. No muss, no fuss. Just instant results.

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Lifecycle Marketing Case Study: The Rocket Company

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Lifecycle-Marketing-Guide

The following case study was written by Andrea Parker of Infusionsoft

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The essence of successful business is targeting a consumer need and providing an excellent solution. It is through these solutions we find new ways to do business, interact with one another, carry out our daily lives and allow our own dreams to flourish. The goal of Infusionsoft is to help small businesses succeed by giving them the solutions they need and helping to foster their growth, so that they can make a difference in the lives of their customers.

In 2010, Infusionsoft wanted to find the best of the best and launched the Ultimate Marketer contest to see which of their customers uses their web-based sales and marketing software in the most effective and creative ways possible. Now, the contest features well over 50 entries. Applicants must fill out a lengthy application that asks for the company’s background story, software implementation process, examples of successful and creative marketing campaigns through each of the seven stages of Lifecycle Marketing, as well as the difference Infusionsoft has made in both business and personal lives.

After reviewing the submissions for 2013, Infusionsoft’s panel of judges selected three finalists, each of which presented on-stage during InfusionCon, Infusionsoft’s annual user conference. Conference attendees voted online and the 2013 Ultimate Marketer Winner was announced: The Rocket Company.

Casey Graham and Michael Lukaszewski founded GivingRocket.com in 2010, which evolved into The Rocket Company. They are a self-proclaimed “scrappy” endeavor that leverages technology for exponential growth in the information marketing realm. The Rocket Company’s mission is simple: to provide the best coaching and resources for church leaders, and through core coaching programs, stand-alone products and free resources, to equip the local church to accomplish its mission.

Like any business, The Rocket Company wants its customers to succeed, and by providing a variety of quality products and services that are customized to fit their customers’ budget and need, they have established a strong business foundation. It is, however, through the detailed and comprehensive marketing efforts of their products and services that the Rocket Company has found their success and helped churches succeed by providing solutions for church communities looking to solve the problem of having more vision than available funds.

By adhering to the seven stages of Lifecycle Marketing, the Rocket Company has grown 832% in its short lifespan. More importantly, Graham and Lukaszewski’s vision for helping others succeed has been realized.

Read on to discover the secrets of effective marketing in any stage of the Lifecycle, with real-life examples from The Rocket Company’s own success story.
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Attract Interest

Attract leads to your website with great content like e-books, infographics, research reports, webinars and blog posts.

rcBlogThe Rocket Company attracts attention and traffic to their website in a variety of ways, such as an offer of a free report, webinar, free event and a pre-written thank you for donors. They also utilize a blog as a conversion tool for getting people into their sales funnel. They provide useful “how to” blog posts and actionable marketing information that can be used in the church community, and sometimes elsewhere.

If you want your company’s blog to grow a strong readership, you have to make sure that the content you provide is not only of value, but is posted often. Frequency of post often directly correlates with the amount of traffic your blog receives, so follow The Rocket Company’s lead and make sure you’re posting at least several times per week; otherwise, content gets stale and readers will seek their information from other sources.

While having regular readers and rising traffic is never a bad thing, you need to take those blog readers to the next step, which involves a little more vested interest in your company and the services or products that you provide. Your business should always present prospective customers with the opportunity to provide their personal information in exchange for another lead magnet.

Attracting interest also shines in the form of offering a variety of lead magnets. These magnets can be anything from an e-book or whitepaper to a free webinar or instructional video. The Rocket Company features an opt-in box in their blog’s top right margin that asks for a first name and email address. In return, customers receive a free report on the five systems every church should have.

rclead-magnet
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Capture Leads

Encourage leads to sign up to receive your content. Be sure to include opt-in language in your web form.

giving-rocketEvents, especially free events, present an excellent opportunity to capture leads. Those who attend—whether it’s virtual or live— have either signed up online in advance or will sign up the day of, which means contact information accompanies each of the attendees automatically. By providing content-rich, world-class events with big names in the industry, The Rocket Company is able to reach tens of thousands of people at a time.

Webinars are an extremely popular way to capture lead information. Their benefit is two-fold: they can either be done live and engage participants with Q & A throughout, or they can be prerecorded and presented in a controlled environment.

This all lends itself to accelerating the sales process, but it also insures contact information capture for your company. When the webinar is complete, you can use the replay at a later date as another form of a lead magnet. Webinars do not require an intense amount of work and preparation, though they do share a great amount of information with viewers and give insight into your business’s level of expertise.

The Rocket Company is able to capture a large amount of leads outside of their website by leveraging their relationships with individuals and organizations that are willing to send emails to their lists on their behalf. People who receive those emails already trust the sender, so when a message comes from a them about The Rocket Company, it serves as an endorsement and recipients are far more likely to look into The Rocket Company’s website and services.

Relationship marketing is a very useful technique, so long as those you partner with are reliable and trustworthy. Email recipients want the assurance that what you or your partners are trying to sell them is legitimate and useful.
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Nurture Prospects

Create a consistent campaign of useful information and offers with automated, personalized follow-up messages.

Once lead information has been captured, your company needs to make sure it is being proactive and nurturing this new prospect, otherwise all of your marketing efforts to get leads through the door will be for nothing. This stage of the Lifecycle is important because you’ll have to classify your new lead based on your perception of their interest in your company and place them into a nurture sequence that moves at a comfortable rate for them.

The Rocket Company understands that everyone has unique needs, and a business can’t treat one new lead just like every other one. If your new prospect feels like just another person in the sales funnel, they won’t feel special and will likely ask to be removed from your mailing list, which is the kiss of death for any business.

When a new contact enters The Rocket Company’s funnel, they are placed into a warm-up sequence geared toward the area of interest they signed up for, which also tags them as having requested specific information (preaching, giving, etc.).

This warm-up sequence introduces people to The Rocket Company and gently shows them how the company’s products can help them in a way that meets their needs. The sequence is set up to deliver seven emails over 30 days with valuable content that helps recipients become better leaders. The ratio of helpful content to CTA is about
80/20. The first few emails provide extra value and deliver what the recipient asked for and more.

rcnuruturesequenceOnce prospects have completed the warm up sequence, they are placed in the nurture sequence that adds a lot of value while also selling products and coaching services. This is typically one email per week that provides helpful content that drives recipients to a resource or coaching program.

It is important that this sequence really fosters trust in your company’s relationship with the prospective customer as well as making them feel like you have their interest at heart.

The Rocket Company says that as their sequences proceed, emails become more targeted towards the core coaching program. The percentage of help and CTA of 80/20 flips by the end of the two sequences, which don’t even feel like sequences since the information is based so heavily around helping people. The emails all have a very similar flavor, but there is just a difference in time of delivery.

Your company should be sure it is segmenting its communication with leads based on what people are interested in (which lead magnet they signed up to receive) by using tags and action steps based on their behavior. If someone has already purchased a product, don’t clutter up inboxes with sales emails about the same product.
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Convert Sales

Turn browsers into buyers with e-commerce tools and a well-defined lead management strategy.

Turning leads into customers all happens in one little step, but it is arguably the most important step of the Lifecycle. Up until this point, your business has been using all of the marketing tools in its arsenal, and it’s time to go in for the hard sell—though this can be tricky. You don’t want to overwhelm and bombard your customer with direct, flashy pitches; that style can be too aggressive and actually turn your customers away from buying from you. However, you do want to ensure a purchase.

One way to get your potential customer’s attention focused on your business is through use of subtle cues or “by-the-way” selling. This is an indirect mention of the products. It’s not straightforward; rather, it’s more subliminal, and you are able to hit mental triggers with people.

For example, The Rocket Company mentions products or services in blog posts and readers get to consume a quality blog post as well as a call to action.

While the subtle “by-the-way” strategy is not the most effective sales pitch, you don’t feel like you’re bombarding your prospect and you can layer this less invasive tactic and use it often. Directly marketing your services and products to consumers allows you to be upfront about your company’s offerings and, at times, interaction with leads will give them the final push to close the deal.

Occasional posts in a members forum where you use a link can be effective as well. The goal is to get readers to click through to a sales page on your company’s website that will take them to either an order form or a store product.

The Rocket Company has a proven track record of in-person sales at their live events because people can interact with Graham and Lukaszewski and have any questions they have about the product answered immediately.

rcconvertsales

Sometimes, however, a gentle nudge towards a sale is necessary, and that’s when your business can offer a promotion. Nothing gets people moving like a time-sensitive offer, like a structured three-day sale or limited registration for an event. The Rocket Company utilizes their online events to convert leads into customers. They also choose to promote their offers, specials and events through email communication, website, social media and referral partners so that all bases are covered and they don’t miss an opportunity to convert a sale.
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Deliver and Satisfy

Fulfill your commitments on-time, then provide additional value that surprises and delights customers.

Sometimes delivering a product or service just isn’t enough and customers need a little something extra to feel fully content with their purchase. It is at that moment that customer service becomes critical to the process and experience. Once a sale has been made, a customer wants to know that they are valued by your business and that if they need you, you’ll be there for them. They also want follow-up, even if they don’t say it.

One of the easiest ways to follow up with a new customer is to send a thank you email that not only lets them know you appreciate their purchase, but that your company is available to meet their needs and that you value their feedback. Also, reiterating the benefits of your product or service in that first follow-up email helps to cut down on that pesky feeling of buyer’s remorse that can tend to crop up. If you provide a service over time, make sure that your emails are connecting with your customers and asking for feedback along the way can be helpful and enlightening. By including questions those customers can respond to, you begin a conversation with them, and this allows you to fine tune the way your business interacts with its customers, as well as how it handles those inevitable bumps in the road.

When said bump arises, you want to make sure you respond quickly, effectively and through the medium in which you were contacted. If a customer is upset about a particular issue and tweets about it, make sure you’re tweeting back and engaging them so that you can work out the problem. The Rocket Company makes it a point to respond as fast as possible to customer issues, look for key phrases that may indicate a larger problem and own up to the issue.

For example, if someone complains online that The Rocket Company is selling too hard at an event, Graham loves to reach out to each customer individually to handle the issue because it always makes a person feel like they matter when the CEO is connecting with them personally. It also helps in winning over that customer when their problem is handled from the top down because it humanizes the company and allows others to see that if something is wrong, it will be made right, not ignored.

rocketcompanytweet

An excellent way to set the bar high for customer service is by being proactive and over delivering on your promises. Don’t wait until there is an issue; make sure you customer is satisfied and that they are getting even more than what they signed up for, as this glowing review of your business will inevitably be passed along to others.

The Rocket Company likes to send its new customers a box of swag. Recipients are delighted when they open up the unexpected package, so they often tweet pictures of the gear to say thanks. Both the new customers’ followers and The Rocket Company’s followers see the tweets, so the positivity spread online very quickly.

Keep in mind that being proactive in satisfying your customers is not just about the tchotchkes in the beginning. It’s about making sure your customer is having your business’ ultimate customer experience in the long term. Be sure you are sending out personalized emails that let customers know that you are there to serve them and that you are available, and don’t forget the impact a hand-written note can have on a customer. Many businesses have become too impersonal by doing all business and communications, but the human element that is absent can quickly be recaptured if you simply take a moment to let you customer know you care.

Develop a long-term strategy, tactics, products and services to help generate additional sales and recurring revenue over time.

One of the best ways to grow your business is through the upsell. If a customer is at the end of the sales cycle and has another product recommended to them based on their current purchase, you can bet most people will at least pause and consider the benefits of the recommended product.

Customers who receive emails thanking them for subscribing to or downloading a lead magnet might be delighted to find a “special one-time discount” on products or services. It is in these moments that a customer who may have been wavering on another product based on pricing or timing is pushed over the edge and into the sale.

A company knows its best-selling products or services, so it never hurts to highlight or promote that product in the shopping cart page because that product just may work for the customer!

increase-church-giving

If a person signs up for an event or a lead magnet, why not offer them a free gift?

Often, your business can figure out which free gift or service will work best for you, as well as for the prospective customer, and that can lead to larger sales numbers because it gives that lead a taste of what your company has to offer.

For businesses that offer higher priced goods and services, payment plans can be very helpful for customers. By highlighting the more expensive product or service in comparison to what is currently in a customer’s shopping cart, the customer gains insight into how a pricier product or service may benefit them even more.

Your business can also offer add-on services or products that only some customer are eligible for, as add-on services or products offered in the shopping cart are particularly successful due to key placement.

Do be sure to tag your new customers based on their purchase history, as this help to tailor the content and offers in your follow up sequence. If you have a new product that would be a good fit for a current customer in a particular purchase category, all you have to do is make sure the appropriate email is sent to them and the likelihood of a purchase from a satisfied customer receiving an email offer “just for them” is instantly elevated.
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Get Referrals

Encourage referrals by encouraging and creating incentives for customers and partners.

If you have a friend who is looking for a service provider and you’ve had a great experience somewhere, you will probably provide a recommendation to that friend and expect that they will have a similar experience, right? Many small businesses with marketing and advertising budgets to match get a bulk of their business by word of mouth, so you can imagine how important it is to be sure your customers enjoy their experience with you at the time or purchase and beyond. To promote your event in a very easy way, try integrating customers’ registration for an event with social media so they can easily click to share on twitter and Facebook. Your upcoming event will get much more exposure this way.

rc-get-referralsReferrals can come as simply as asking a happy customer to forward an email about a free event to introduce more people to the company. The person who forwards this email is not asking their friend to buy anything, but simply come to a free event and see what it’s all about.

There doesn’t always have to be an incentive for the referrer, but if your business needs to entice some customers to become repeat customers, your company should consider creating an incentive program for referrals.

Happy customers are more likely to send friends and family to your front door (real or virtual). This can mean something as simple as offering 10% off a product for a referral or a free service from your company. This is a very small cost to absorb to gain a new customer.

To accelerate the referral process, your company can create a partner program that gives higher-volume, reputable referral partners a certain amount of kickback for their referrals. These partners know and believe in your product or service, and with the ability to answer questions and sell your company’s product, they are ideal people to be “out in the field” when you must tend to your business. If a mutually agreeable deal can be worked out, referral partners can do a lot of the customer finding legwork for your business.

Make sure to form strong relationships with people in the industry and try asking for people to refer business to you. No matter what, you must always ask for referrals and you can return the favor to those acquaintances when the opportunity arises.

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Lifecycle Marketing Guide for Small Business Owners

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What’s the difference between businesses that thrive and those that seem to just survive? Successful businesses have a sales and marketing plan that brings in a constant stream of new prospects and maximizes the value of existing customers. This is done by understanding the principles of Lifecycle Marketing for Small Business.

So what is Lifecycle marketing? Well, the easiest way that I can think to explain it to you is to just show you the seven steps thriving businesses are using to grow, nurture and retain valuable customers.

Lifecycle Marketing

Lifecycle Marketing

The 7 Stages of Lifecycle Marketing

  1. Attract Traffic – use content like free reports, webinars, blog posts, podcasts, and videos to attract traffic to your website.
  2. Capture Leads – convert the traffic to your website into subscribers by giving them something for free as an incentive for them to give you their contact information via a web form.
  3. Nurture Prospects – provide your subscribers with an ongoing series of educational information that is automated, yet highly personalized.
  4. Convert Sales – turn your prospects into customers with eCommerce tools and a well defined marketing strategy.
  5. Deliver and Satisfy – Fulfill your orders on time, and then provide additional unexpected value that surprises and delights customers.
  6. Upsell Customers – Determine your longer-term strategy for ensuring that your customers continue to buy more of your products and services so that you can generate additional recurring revenue.
  7. Get Referrals – Encourage your customers to refer more customers by creating incentives.

These seven steps are at the core of every successful business. Without them in place, you have holes in your business and you are leaving money on the table.

Lifecycle Marketing is a concept that isn’t terribly new, per se; however, for most small businesses, the challenge of consistently executing this concept across their entire database of prospects and customers is one that is often elusive.

To help agencies and small business owners overcome this challenge, BrightIdeas.co has published our very own Lifecycle Marketing Guide for Small Business Owners and it is our hope that the information you find in the accompanying sections of this guide proves invaluable to your business.

Section One: Attract Interest

What are you doing to let people know about your business? You can do this either online or off-line.

Off-line options would include traditional advertising such as print, radio, television, direct mail, and others. These options tend to me fairly expensive and make it much more difficult to track your results than the newer online methods that are proving so popular today.

Online options would include email marketing, SEO (search engine optimization), pay per click, blogging, social media and so much more. The reason that these methods have become so popular is because they work! Not only do they generally cost less (or are free), but with online methods, you can track every click, page view, video view, etc…

In aggregate, all this data is incredibly valuable because, armed with it, you are able to immediately assess whether or not what you are doing is getting the results you want. Plus, you are also able to run A/B tests, which are like GOLD for marketers.

If you are going to succeed in attracting interest, there are a few very basic things that you must have in place if you are to build your online marketing on a solid foundation. These things include:

  • A target audience
  • High quality, relevant content
  • A modern website to display that content
  • Website analytics

But the question I always ask is what are you doing to get people to consume your information or to come into your business or to look at your website?

Additional Resources

Section Two: Capture Leads

The next step in lifecycle marketing is capturing leads. Now that you have generated all this traffic to your business, it’s important that you capture contact information from the people that have visited your website, your brick-and-mortar store, etc.

Every time somebody visits your business and you don’t capture their contact information, it’s like fishing with a net that has a gigantic hole in it. The fish swim in the top of the net and swim right out the back of the net. It doesn’t make much sense, doesn’t it? You need to have easy way to capture this information.

Some of the best ways to capture leads is with

  • Online web forms
  • QR codes
  • Events
  • Networking activities
  • Walk-ins
  • Referrals
  • Call ins

Each one of these examples can be used to capture simple contact information for every person that visits your business.

When I talk about simple information, I am talking about something as simple as their first name and their email address.

Please remember that the more information you ask for, the less likelihood of people providing it. If you decide to ask for a phone number and a street address, people might be too uncomfortable to provide that information. By asking for something as simple as a first name and an email address, most everyone will do that.

Additional Resources

Section Three: Nurture Prospects

What do you traditionally do with the leads that you capture? I am assuming that most of you will call them or send them an email. If they don’t respond, you will call them again or send them another email. If they don’t respond again, you will probably call them again or send them another email.

Now, here’s the real question. What do you do next?

If you are like most small business people, you stop trying to contact the prospect and it ends up in the trash.

Do you realize how much business you potentially throw away every single day? Imagine the impact on your business if you could convert an extra 10% of the leads that go in the trash.

Have you ever wondered why it’s so important to nurture your prospects?

It’s because 81% of your sales happen after you make seven or more contacts to your prospects. Seven contacts! How many of you can honestly tell me you attempt to make seven or more contacts to your prospects.

Please don’t feel bad because 85% of the time, we stop after 1 to 2 contacts.

Have you ever wondered the cost of not making the additional 4 to 5 contacts to each of your prospects?

Additional Resources

Section Four: Convert Sales

The next step in lifecycle marketing is converting sales.

Most people want me to spend lots of time on this step because they want to learn lots of new ways to convert sales. However, I traditionally spend the least amount of time on this step. Why?

Because, if you are putting in the amount of effort necessary to attracting more traffic, capturing more leads and nurturing those leads, converting more sales become simple.

The same is true with offline selling. If you don’t do a good job determining that your prospect has a need, building trust and rapport, and then presenting a solution that solves their issue, there isn’t a “closing technique” on the planet that is going to help you.

With that said, I do have a few ideas on how you can convert more sales.

The easiest way to convert more sales is create better magnets and better education of your prospects. The more they know about your product or service before they buy, the greater likelihood of you converting the sale.

You also need to spend more time nurturing your prospects until they are ready to buy.

Always remember that not everybody is going to buy your product or service the first time they see it. Some people need a little bit of nurturing before they see that your product or service is the answer to all of their problems. This is why list segmentation is so incredibly important. You want to give people who are ready to buy now the opportunity to do so, while allowing those that need more time to be continually nurtured until they are ready.

I also recommend that proper target marketing will always convert more sales. The more clearly you know your market, the easier it is to find them and to sell to them.

However, the best way to convert more sales is to have better qualified prospects. If you know that every person you’re talking to needs your product or service or will directly benefit from your product or service, you will start converting more sales. It’s just that simple.

Additional Resources

Section Five: Deliver and Satisfy

The next step is deliver and satisfy. Many of you are so happy that your prospect has bought your product or service that you really don’t care how your product or service is delivered or how satisfied your customer will be. An attitude like this will kill any possibility for repeat sales or referrals. Let’s take a closer look at this step.

As you can see, this step is called deliver and satisfy. If all you had to do was deliver your product or service, this step would be no big deal. However, you also need to make sure you completely and totally satisfy your customer.

How do you do this? You need to identify what is your WOW!

Your wow is that something extra that separates you from your competitors. It’s that thing that makes people want to talk about your business. It falls into the category of under-promise and over deliver.

What can be your WOW? Make sure you deliver their product or service more quickly than they expected. If they ordered a quantity of something, include a little bit extra for free.

Right after you deliver their product or service, pick up the phone and call them to make sure they are 100% satisfied.

As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot to completely satisfy your customer.

Just remember that if your current customers are not completely satisfied with your product or service, the chances of them doing business with somebody else increases greatly.

Additional Resources

Section Six: Upsell Customers

The next step in lifecycle marketing is up selling your customers. This step focuses on the idea of selling more of your products or services to each one of your customers. Let me share with you an example.

If you go to a clothing store and buy a men’s suit, do they typically only sell you a men’s suit? Of course not. They try to sell you a tie, pocket square, belt, shoes, and more.

At the same clothing store, you attempt to buy a dress. Do they just sell you the dress?

Once again, of course not. They will try to sell you shoes, a purse, belt, a scarf and more accessories then you could possibly need.

The same goes with your product or service. Are you getting the maximum dollars added each of your customers. Are there things that you sell that your customers would like to buy after their initial purchase from you? Of course there are. All you have to do is ask them to buy from you.

Do you know which company is the world’s greatest at up selling?

That company is McDonald’s. Every time you buy something from them, they will typically say to you, “would you like fries with that?” Do you have any idea how many fries, soft drinks, apple pies, and more that McDonald’s sells just because they ask you?

It’s a very big number. If it wasn’t, do you really think they’d keep asking?

Additional Resources

Section Seven: Get Referrals

The last step in lifecycle marketing is, quite possibly, the most important step.

Take a look at your business. Are you bringing in the amount of referrals that you would like? Do you wish more people would think about referring your business to others? Ever wonder why you’re getting so few referrals?

One of the easiest ways to close more sales is by generating a constant flow of referrals in your business. Unfortunately, most small business owners don’t know how to generate this consistent flow.

Here at BrightIdeas, we have spent massive amounts of time and resources into creating what we like to refer to as our Advanced Referral Strategy. This strategy is extremely deep and complex and some of you might have trouble understanding it the first time you hear it. Before we share this strategy with you, we recommend that you grab a pen or pencil and a piece of paper to write down the details of this advanced referral strategy.

Are we ready? Here is the advanced referral strategy developed by BrightIdeas.

askforthem

Yea…it’s really that simple…BUT…the key is not to ask for them in a way that make you and the person you are asking feel awkward.

Additional Resources

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Are You a Follow Up Failure?

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Lifecycle-Marketing-Guide

What do you traditionally do with the leads that you capture? I am assuming that most of you will call them or send them an email. If they don’t respond, you will call them again or send them another email. If they don’t respond again, you will probably call them again or send them another email.

Now, here’s the real question. What do you do next? Because, if you are like most small business people, you stop trying to contact the prospect and it ends up in the trash. Do you realize how much business you potentially throw away every single day? Imagine the impact on your business if you could convert an extra 10% of the leads that go in the trash.

Have you ever wondered why it’s so important to nurture your prospects?

followupstats-1It’s because 81% of your sales happen after you make seven or more contacts to your prospects. Seven contacts! How many of you can honestly tell me you attempt to make seven or more contacts to your prospects.

Please don’t feel bad because 85% of the time, we stop after 1 to 2 contacts.

Have you ever wondered the cost of not making the additional 4 to 5 contacts to each of your prospects?

Here is a very good example that will help identify the cost of not nurturing.

Let’s say you do a campaign to 10,000 people. This could be by email, direct mail, etc. Out of those 10,000 people, 100 people say they are interested in your product or service. Out of those 100 people, 10 people end up buying your product or service.

I’m assuming many of you would be thrilled by closing 10% of the people that were interested in your product or service.

10customersThe question I always like to ask is: what happens to the other 90 responders? Most of them fall through the cracks, have zero follow-up, or will end up buying from your competitors.

In other words, most of these 90 responders will end up in the trash.

What if, on the other hand, you had a way to easily stay in touch with them? What if it was automated?

What if this system allowed you to convert 15, 20, or 25 people instead of just 10? How much of an impact do you think all that extra profit would have on your business?

25customersIt would be huge, wouldn’t it?

That’s what I’m talking about! If you aren’t systematizing the lead nurturing process, you could be leaving thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars of profit on the table…for someone else’s business to grab.

Now, that’s just not good business!

As you can see, the key to great nurturing is with AMAZING follow up. This is where so many business people drop the ball. They are great at making lots of contacts and connections but they lack the skills necessary to follow up properly.

This is why most business people need a specific campaign or path to follow to deliver the right follow up.

Three Basic Follow Up Campaigns

There are three basic follow up campaigns that will help most businesses.

  • New Lead Campaign – to be used when you capture a new lead and want to nurture them until they are ready to buy
  • New Customer Campaign – to be used after a customer purchases your product or service so you can work on repeat sales, up-sales and referrals
  • Long-Term Nurture Campaign – to be used for those people that aren’t really interested in your product or service but you still want to follow up with them over a period of time.

If you’re curious what one of these campaigns looks like, please take a look at the diagram below.

Screenshot from Infusionsoft's Campaign Builder

Screenshot from Infusionsoft’s Campaign Builder

This is a typical lifecycle marketing campaign. Starting on the left, you can see how this company plans on attracting traffic to their business. They plan on doing this through blogging, Facebook, their website and organic marketing.

They will be offering something free as their lead magnet.

They will then enter the customer into a new lead campaign that will send information about their product or service to educate the customer until they are ready to purchase.

From here, either the customer purchases the product or service online or they will be added to a long term nurture that will provide them consistent information until, sometime in the future, they will hopefully be ready to purchase a product or service.

Once they make the purchase online they are entered into a new customer campaign which will provide them with information to encourage repeat sales and to upsell them on other products and services.

As you can see, this campaign is a easy (and easy to replicate) follow up system. Best of all, we do all of this automatically!

What does this mean for small business owners?

It means you get to spend less time on worrying about your marketing and more time working on growing your business.

It means that emails, white papers, videos, etc. are sent out to the right people at the right time without you thinking about it.

It means that fewer of your leads will fall through the cracks and more of your prospects will become customers.

It means that you are generating the maximum amount of sales from each of your customers and generating the amount of referrals necessary to reach a higher level of success.

Doesn’t this sound like the kind of business you always dreamed of owning? With an automated follow up system like Infusionsoft, this can become your reality.

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28 Ways to Use PR to Drive Traffic to Your Website

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The following article is a guest post by By Nancy Marshall, Principal, Nancy Marshall Communications.

I started doing public relations in the 1980s when we used a mimeograph machine to copy our press releases and then mailed them out in envelopes with postage stamps on them.  Today we distribute them by email and share them on social networks.  Have we come a long way since then or what?

The power of the internet to massively increase our public relations footprint has grown exponentially since the 1980s and is still growing every day. The challenge is to leverage the power of the internet with a well thought-out strategic plan that includes defining our messages, defining our audiences and figuring out the best methods to connect our messages with our audiences. Just because we have the ability to email a press release to thousands of journalists doesn’t mean that we should do so. That’s why it’s important to have a PR plan before you start spinning your wheels generating content and randomly disseminating it everywhere.

Today, I am going to share my 28 ideas about how to use PR to drive traffic to your website. Each and every day, the most important thing is to keep your website at the top of your own mind so you can explore new ways to share your web address. At the same time, be sure to keep your website content up to date, because the search engines do not want to send people to a site that is outdated or irrelevant.

Always be thinking about how to improve your site by adding new content that is remarkable, and watching the Google Analytics to see how people are using your site.  The bounce rate is a key indicator as to whether your site is appealing to visitors or not.  If you are spending time and money to send people to your site and they are immediately clicking away, you have a serious problem that needs to be corrected before you send more visitors to the site.

There are two main ways to generate traffic to your site:  attracting them by having the optimized key words, and sending them there by having links from other sites or listing the URL on printed pieces. In this article, I’m going to address both: attracting visitors and driving visitors to your website.

Here are my 28 ideas, and I’m sure you’ll have plenty of your own ideas once you get the creative juices flowing!

  1. Press releases sent to business publications and shows on TV and radio, including a link to your website. Make sure you are announcing something newsworthy such as hiring a new employee, or winning an award, or making a speech at a significant trade show or conference.   Also make sure you are targeting the kind of media that will be interested in your press release.  Business publications will be interested in business announcements, for example.
  2. Press releases are great, but it’s even better if you can use a press release to get a journalist to do a feature story on you or your business.  A feature story is an article in a newspaper or a magazine, or a story on radio or TV that will ideally include a link to your site. If there is no link, some people will still become more interested in you and Google search you. Either way, feature stories are a great way to tell your story in the media and raise your profile. In order to get a feature, you need to send a very good press release to the right reporter, editor or producer and pique their interest in the story you have to tell. Usually, you also need to place a follow up phone call to pitch your idea.  In the tourism industry, getting a story in the Sunday Travel Section of a major newspaper is a major coup. Typically these stories include what we call a “service bar” which is a sidebar that includes all the contact info including phone number, postal address, physical address and web address.
  3. Your business cards, letterheads and other printed materials should always include your web address. You might even consider having a QR code with a direct link to your site. That’s what we do on our business cards at Nancy Marshall Communications.
  4. Make sure your email signature includes a link to your website. You’d be amazed how many people will click through after they read your email message!
  5. Branded giveaways are a great way to literally put your web address on peoples’ walls (calendars), in their hands (pens and pencils), on their desks (calculators, thumb drives and coffee mugs) or in their cars (travel mugs, ice scrapers).  I have a wall calendar from my chiropractor that I look at every day, and it reminds me to contact him if my neck or back start feeling out of whack.
  6. Trade shows are an ideal place to promote your website. The web address should be prominently displayed on your trade show booth and in all your promotional materials. If you are exhibiting at a trade show, there will be members of the media in attendance. Frequently there will be a media room at the show where you can leave press kits or giveaways such as pens, water bottles and coffee mugs. Make sure your web address is on every single item that you give away at trade shows.
  7. Speaking engagements at Rotary, Kiwanis and Chamber meetings as well as college classes are an ideal place to talk about your website and give out the web address. If you are using a PowerPoint presentation, include the web address on every slide.  Every time I do a speaking engagement, I write a press release about my appearance and send it to the local media, which is yet another opportunity to include a link to my website.
  8. Guest posts on other peoples’ blogs (like this one that you are reading now!) are a great place to provide a link to your site.  I also have a blog at www.maineprmaven.com, which is another site that I promote whenever possible.
  9. Submit your blog posts to social bookmarking sites such as Reddit, Stumbleupon and Digg.
  10. Take advantage of local search.  Google + Local are a great ways to make your site more findable by local audiences.
  11. Produce videos to be posted on YouTube including keyword-rich text descriptions. YouTube is great place to include a link to your site. Did you know that YouTube is the second most popular search engine next to Google? That’s because people love to watch videos when they want to know how to do something or they want to know about something.  As a society, we are reading less than ever, unfortunately. Your third grade teacher would be disappointed that you would prefer to watch a video to learn something new rather than going to the library to get a book about it.
  12. Guest opinion columns in the newspaper about relevant timely topics can include a biographical backgrounder on you as the author, including a link to your website.
  13. Facebook posts on your own page and on other peoples’ pages can include a link to your site, but be careful.  You need to interact with others in a very human way, and not always be promoting to your own site, or people will see right through what you’re doing. A mix of posts that are social and human, along with one post a week with a link to your own site will work. My strategic partner Stephen Woessner’s book, ‘Increase Online Sales through Viral Social Marketing,’ (available at amazon.com) lays out an exact formula for the balance between social posts and promotional posts.
  14. Pinterest is a fast-growing social network, particularly among women. If you pin an interesting photo on one of your Pinterest boards that links back to your site, people will click through to see where that photo came from. For example, I saw this wonderful photo on Pinterest of a breakfast at a Maine B&B, The Pomegranate Inn in Portland, Maine. I was curious about it, so I clicked through to their website, which is equally wonderful to look at, and I thought to myself that I would like to go there someday soon (especially since my PR agency handles PR for the Maine Office of Tourism!)
  15. Twitter is a great place to include links to your site, although you might want to use them as ow.ly links so you can reduce the number of characters. (Google  the term “ow links” for an explanation if you are unfamiliar.)
  16. Use Instagram to drive traffic from photos to your site. Be sure to completely fill out the online profile to close the loop from your photos back to your website.
  17. LinkedIn is a great place to establish yourself as an expert, and to make important professional connections.  You can list your web address right in your LinkedIn profile.
  18. Event sponsorship allows you to create banners and give branded giveaways promoting your business name and web address to a targeted audience. Consider a business-to-business trade show, an arts performance, a sporting event, or even the walls at your local Major League Baseball or even the Little League stadium. Align the sponsorship with your targeted audience.
  19. Charitable donations position you as a responsible and philanthropic neighbor. When you make a donation, the charity will help you promote your business in their event programs, their annual giving guides or in thank-you speeches at their annual meetings.  We work with the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville, Maine as a client, and I donate to them throughout the year. They are sure to promote my URL, www.marshallpr.com, whenever possible.
  20. If you are in the business of building websites for others, be sure to include a link back to your own website at the bottom of the home page. We build websites for businesses and nonprofits of all kinds, and we always embed a link on the home page of every one.
  21. Put your web address on your clothing:  logoed clothing is a great way to build your wardrobe, whether it’s on the front of a golf shirt, a hoodie sweatshirt, a baseball cap or a ski hat.  Give fleece vests emblazoned with your logo and URL to all your employees. They will wear it with pride and promote your web address everywhere they go.
  22. Ask the CEO of your company to write an article (or offer to ghostwrite for him or her) to post on a blog or submit to the local newspaper or business journal. If you’re the CEO, try to make this a regular practice. Be sure to include a bio at the end of the article with a link to your website.  Post the article on your own company’s blog too, because it will be rich in keywords.
  23. Create infographics and post on social media sites. Infographics are all the rage right now as an easy, graphical place to explain a concept. You will need a professional graphic designer to create them, and you can either hire a designer to serve on your staff or outsource to a freelancer.  There are freelancers available online through sites like 99designs.com that can create infographics cost effectively. People are more likely to share infographics than other types of content through social networks. Be sure to include your website address and company name in the infographic and post it on your website, as well as sharing it on Facebook, Pinterest and other social networks.
  24. Network with influencers the old-fashioned way at trade shows, chamber of commerce meetings and conferences. Meet people in person, exchange business cards, then connect with them on social media in order to maintain the relationship until you see them again. The more influential people who you link with on LinkedIn, or friend on Facebook, or follow on Twitter, the better.  They call this practice “pressing the flesh,” and it is, in my opinion, the best possible way to create meaningful and long-lasting relationships.
  25. Generate links back to your site from websites that have ‘authority,’ such as college and university sites and governmental sites, by figuring out ways to post content or get articles written with links to your site. Google and other search engines consider the ‘authority’ of websites when viewing the links to your site. If a site with a great deal of authority links to your site, that’s like an endorsement of your site, so it’s a good thing.
  26. Create an e-newsletter and constantly build your list. We publish “The NMC Report” once a month, no matter how busy we are with other commitments. We include tips and techniques that are easily implemented by our readers, who are typically small business owners or marketing officers for companies and nonprofits.  We make it easy to sign up for the e-newsletter on our website and we are constantly gathering names at trade shows and conferences. This list is valuable to our business because these are people who don’t mind having us market ourselves to them. Every single time we send out an e-newsletter, we see a spike in our web traffic because we include links throughout the e-news back to our website.  We use Mail Chimp but we also recommend Constant Contact.
  27. Share your PowerPoint presentations and other slide decks to sites like Slideshare and Scribd.   This is a fantastic way to position yourself or someone from your organization as an expert and to generate a quality link back to your website.
  28. Build a rock-solid reputation to generate word of mouth. The #1 absolute best way to drive traffic to your website is to do great work so people will refer you to others. This is, by far, the most powerful form of marketing and public relations. 

Nancy Marshall, also known as The Maine PR Maven, has been practicing PR professionally for 30 years. She owns Nancy Marshall Communications, an agency in Augusta, Maine specializing in producing and implementing strategic marketing communications plans, called The Marshall Plan™. Her agency blog is at www.maineprmaven.com, and her agency’s website is at www.marshallpr.com. Nancy was the 2011 winner of the Edward L. Bernays Award from the Maine Public Relations Council for the state’s most accomplished PR professional. She is married and has two sons who are accomplished ski racers. 

What Do You Think?

Was this article helpful? If so, please share it by clicking one of the social sharing buttons on the left. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below. Thanks very much!

Want to write for Bright Ideas? Click here.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

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Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

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4 Steps to Keyword Research Success

Lifecycle-Marketing-Guide

As was clearly demonstrated in my interview with Marcus Sheridan, proper keyword selection is critical to the success of your content marketing strategy.

The ability to properly select keywords is also a huge part of how any firm can create a sustainable competitive advantage for themselves. How, you ask?

Think about this for a moment…your products and services can be copied by other firms. However, SEO is not easy to copy and keyword research is the the second step to SEO and content marketing success. (The first step is picking your target market.)

The problem for many entrepreneurs who are new to content marketing is that they don’t have a methodology for proper keyword research. Not having a system in place either leads to a flawed strategy, or, even worse, no strategy at all.

In this post, I’m going to provide you with an overview of the keyword research process, and then I’m going to dive deep into exactly how I do my own keyword research, so grab a cup of java and get ready to see an approach that differs from many that are published on other sites.

Ready? Good, let’s get on with it!

Understanding the Long Tail

Proper keyword research begins with an understanding of the different types of keywords. To help illustrate that, I’ve included a chart from SEOmoz that visually explains the difference between what is called a head keyword and a long tail keyword.

keyword-research

As this illustration shows, the 70% of searches are for long tail keywords, and, unlike the Fat Head keywords that are virtually impossible to rank for, these long tail keywords are much easier to get traffic from, so long as your on page optimization is done correctly.

Another reason to target long tail keywords is because they are likely to convert better. For example, if someone is searching for “conference”, they are not nearly as likely to buy a ticket as someone searching for “marketing conference in San Diego”.

Creating a Competitive Advantage with SEO

While each long tail keyword doesn’t have a huge search volume, in aggregate, the search volume can really add up over time. To illustrate the importance of this consider the following two firms:

The first firm is an avid blogger and they target a long tail keyword with every post they write. Over a 2 year period of time, they write 300 blog posts, each targeting a keyword with just 300 exact searches per month. In aggregate, the total search volume that they are ranking for is 90,000 exact searches a month! Even better is the fact that they are highly likely to rank on the first page of Google for a good number of these keywords (assuming proper selection, which I’ll cover down below, and on-page optimization, which I’ll cover in a later post). From purely an SEO perspective, this first firm has created a very strong and highly defensible competitive advantage.

The second firm wrote the same number of posts and each post is just as high quality as the first firm, except the second firm didn’t bother to target a long tail keyword with every post they wrote. This will still receive some SEO benefit from having all this content on their blog, however, the benefit won’t be nearly as good as what it could have been, plus the traffic they receive won’t likely convert nearly as well because their content will be less likely to be relevant to the keywords it ranked for.

The steady accumulation of SEO traffic from long tail keywords is the primary reason why your content marketing strategy should be focused on long tail keywords.

Now let’s take a look at the actual process by way of a real example.

Step 1: Start with a Head Keyword

For this example, let’s assume that we want to find a keyword that is related to LinkedIn. To do that, I’m going to show you two tools: the free Google Keyword Tool and the tool I use, SECockpit (affiliate link).

First let’s start with Google’s tool. When you look at the image below (click to enlarge), pay close attention to the areas the I have highlighted in red.

When you are doing keyword research you should always choose the [Exact] match type because it it the most accurate measurement you are going to get for your phrase.

For example, Broad need only contain the words you are searching for, and they can be in any order. So, if I was searching for LinkedIn for BusinessBroad would include all searches that contained any of those words, in any order. This is hardly an accurate measurement for the word I’m researching.

Phrase is much closer in that LinkedIn for Business would have to be included in the search string somewhere and the words would have to be in the correct order. For example, searches that contained LinkedIn for Business today would be included in the total search count. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s still not as accurate as I’d like.

Exact includes ONLY the exact phrase that I’m researching, and that is why I suggest you use it.

Next, make sure you have Keyword Ideas selected.

keyword-research-with-google-keyword-tool

The reason Google’s tool is free is because it really doesn’t tell us very much. In the example above, we can see there there are (supposedly) 16,600,000 exact global monthly searches for LinkedIn. However, what this does not tell us is anything about how hard it would be to rank on the first page of Google for that keyword or any of the other related keywords that are shown down below.

This lack of SEO competition analysis is a massive limitation of this tool. Please note, the word low under the competition heading does not relate to SEO competition. Instead, it is only a measure of the amount of advertiser competition to bid for that keyword – which would only be useful if you were setting up an Adwords paid traffic campaign, hence why it is included in this tool.

Now let’s look at SECockpit and I’ll walk you though why I feel it is by far the most effective keyword research tool available on the market, and how using it is going to save you a huge amount of time.

In the image below, notice the areas that I have highlighted in red.

keyword-research-with-seockpit-1

First, across the top, notice that I can have more than one tab open. This means that I can analyze multiple keywords simultaneously. Obviously, this is a big time saver, but it’s not the best part of this tool.

Next, notice all the orange bars on the right half of the image. These bars are a measure of the strength of the SEO competition on the first page of the Google results. Having this data at your fingertips is hugely valuable because without it, how would you know which of all the keywords would be the easiest to rank for? SECockpit makes this easy by allowing you to just click on the column header to instantly sort all the related (long tail) keywords so that the ones that are easiest to rank for are at the top.

All I have to do now is to scroll down until I find the keyword that is related to my content and has a monthly exact search volume that meets my minimum acceptable amount.

Let me explain this another way so you really get the point. With every other keyword tool I’ve ever used (and that is most of them), you  have to analyze the strength of SEO competition for just one keyword at a time. That means that, in the case of this particular search example, I would have to spend approximately 1 minute to analyze each of the 170 keywords on this list.  That’s almost three hours of work to get the same data that SECockpit gave me in about 60 seconds.

Hopefully the significance of this has just registered with you. Without SECockpit, you are going to have to invest exponentially more time to get the same result. Boo.

Step 2: Find Related Keywords

Once you have completed your first round of research, you may or may not find a suitable long tail keyword to use. In all likelihood, you will, but if you don’t, expanding your search to include other phrases may also be quite helpful.

If you are using SECockpit, here’s just one way you could do that. You click the expand button and then begin typing another phrase. In the screenshot below, I started to type LinkedIn training and as I was typing, the other phrases appeared. I decided to choose LinkedIn training courses to expand my search and 30 seconds later, I now have 331 keywords that have all had their strength of SEO competition analysis all done for me.

keyword-research-secockpit

Now that I have 331 words, I want to narrow my list back down to only words that included LinkedIn so I can make a selection of which keyword I wish to make the focus of the post that I intend to write. (As a side note, this process is also a very good method for figuring out what to write about!)

keyword-research-example

To narrow down the list, I simply typed LinkedIn into the search bar at the bottom and my 331 words was reduced to 2400 words – all with the strength of SEO competition nicely represented by the orange bars so I can easily sort them from easiest to hardest. Gotta love that!

At this point, the phrase linkedin recommendation examples has caught my attention. It stood out for me because:

  • it has a relatively short orange bar, so I know SEO competition is not too hard
  • it has 2400 local exact searches per month, which for a long tail keyword is plenty
  • there is a youtube video ranked on the first page of Google

Now that we have a potential keyword (after investing only about 2 minutes), we need to do a bit of a deeper dive to check on the trend and exactly the nature of the competition that we’ll face if we try to rank for this phrase.

Step 3: Determine the Trend

To determine the trend of a keyword, you can use Google Trends, or if you are using SECockpit, this functionality is built right in and you will save some more time. To get the report in SECockpit, you just click on the keyword you are interested in.

Regardless of how you get the report, you can see in the image below that the trend in search volume for this keyword is steady, and more recently, has increased quite a bit. This is the type of trend you are looking for.

keyword-research-secockpit-review

Having invested another 5 seconds to determine that the keyword has a positive trend, it’s not time for the last step – determining the strength of the competition we’ll face.

Step 4: Determine the Strength of the Competition

This is a part of the process where inexperienced folks make some pretty big mistakes, thereby negating all the work that preceded this step. The biggest mistake is thinking that the strength of SEO competition is low because they were using the Google Adwords keyword tool and saw the word low under the competition column. As I pointed out earlier in this post, that is NOT a measure of SEO competition.

The fact that SECockpit automatically calculates this for me is the primary reason why I like the tool so much. After all, what good is it if you pick a low volume keyword that happens to have really strong competition on the first page of the Google results? Targeting a keyword like that is a total waste. Plus, if you are only using the Google Adwords keyword tool, you are never going to stumble across a higher volume keyword that happens to be new to the scene and not yet have a ton of competition. We LOVE finding nuggets like that, right?!

keyword-research-secockpit-review-3

To see the data above, all I had to do was to click the keyword I was interested in. Once I did, I was presented with this screen and I can right away see a lot of green. Green is what you are looking for because it is an indicator of weakness.

In looking at these results, I can quickly draw some important conclusions.

First, not all the sites in the results are actually targeting the exact phrase we’re looking at. I can see this by looking in the title column. Page title is extremely important for SEO.

Next, only about 1/2 of the top 10 results have mid to high domain authority. This means I have I chance to rank, and as my domain’s authority increases, my chances will get better over time.

Next, I can see that the link count for most of the sites in the top 10 is pretty low. This is also quite encouraging because if I create a really killer piece of content and then share it on my social networks, other people are quite likely to link to it for me. As time goes by, I will get more and more links, and my ranking will improve. (Hence why creating epic content is so important!)

And finally, I can see that none of my competition, with the exception of #4 (which isn’t even targeting my exact phrase) has much in the way of social sharing. If I’ve done a good job of building my LinkedIn network and am an active participant in a number of LinkedIn groups, I’ll bet I can get a lot of social shares right away just by asking people (or my list) to do it for me.

Summary

If you want to create a sustainable competitive advantage for your company, as well as to turn lead generation into a systematized process, you need to invest in content marketing.

A huge part of your content marketing strategy should be to create content that targets long tail keywords. Doing so will, over time, provide you with an ever increasing source of free traffic from search engines.

The key to getting keyword research right is to use tools that allow you to quickly and easily find high value keywords that have SEO competition low enough to make it probable that you will rank for them. SECockpit is by far the bets tool that I have ever used for this. Using it will save you hours upon hours of boring research.

Once you find your potential keyword, check to ensure that the trend for the search volume is steady or increasing, and finally, have a close look at the strength of the competition for those coveted first 10 slots in the Google search results.

When you find a keyword that passes all these tests, you have just taken a step towards more traffic, more subscribers and more revenue!

It all starts with keyword research.

What Do You Think?

Was this article helpful? If so, please share it by clicking one of the social sharing buttons on the left. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below. Thanks very much!

Want to write for Bright Ideas? Click here.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

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How to Get Management Support for Content Marketing

,
Lifecycle-Marketing-Guide

If you aren’t the boss and your company is not yet actively engaged in content marketing, chances are you are going to need to convince someone higher up the chain that this newfangled “content marketing stuff” is actually worth the time and investment.

For the folks that speak “ROI”, this guide from Eloqua will likely be very helpful (warning: optin required to download it) as it goes into plenty of detail on all the metrics that the C-suite could ever want to see.

Below are a few snippets from the report that I liked. Then, below that, I’m going to link you to some interviews that I’ve done with real live folks that are walking, talking proof that content marketing has worked remarkably well for them.

Don’t forget to check out our very own content management system.

Eloqua’s Findings

According to Eloqua’s findings, a mid-sized organization should expect to spend approximately $12,000 a month and a larger-sized company could expect about $33,000 a month. These costs would be inclusive of the Managing Editor, Chief Content Officer (for larger organizations), the freelancers to actually write the 2 blog posts per week (estimate to cost $150 per post), and $2,500 (mid-sized) or $3,500 (larger-sized) per month for a piece of premium content; which is typically a special report or video, etc…They also included a charge of $1,500 for mid-sized and $2,500 for larger-sized companies for software and hosting.

Image Credit: http://goo.gl/VkRlY

Image Credit: http://goo.gl/VkRlY

As the principle objective of content marketing is to drive traffic and conversions, let’s look at Eloqua’s findings for these two metrics.

Image Credit: http://goo.gl/VkRlY

Image Credit: http://goo.gl/VkRlY

Image Credit: http://goo.gl/VkRl

Image Credit: http://goo.gl/VkRl

When compared to the ongoing cost of paid advertising, content marketing shows a clear and substantial benefit; especially when longer time frames are taken into account.

Image Source: http://goo.gl/VkRlY

Image Source: http://goo.gl/VkRlY

Bencmarks, Budgets, and Trends

Some 86% of B2C marketers in North America are using content marketing, employing 12 individual tactics on average; but, as is the case with B2B content marketing, B2C content marketers are struggling with the effectiveness of their content marketing, according to the findings of the first B2C content marketing study from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute.

  • Among the highlights of the “B2C Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America” study:
  • B2B marketers use social media more often than their B2C counterparts; however, B2C marketers consider it more effective (57% of B2C marketers think social media is effective vs. 49% of B2B marketers).
  • On average, B2C marketers use four social media platforms, compared with five used by B2B marketers.
  • On average, 28% of B2C marketing budgets are allocated to content marketing, and 55% of consumer marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend.

Read more: http://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2012/9504/2013-b2c-content-marketing-benchmarks-budgets-and-trends#ixzz2MExOqdDU

Real Life Examples

As not every boss is going to be convinced of the merits of content marketing just by looking at just facts and figures, allow me to share some real-life stories from entrepreneurs that I have interviewed here on Bright Ideas.

River Pools and Spas – Marcus Sheridan

Marcus’ story is nothing short of amazing. In 2008, his fiberglass pool and spa business was nearly broke. Prior to then, there were spending $250,000 a year to produce $4M in annual revenue. By 2012, their marketing spend had decreased to $20,000 a year and sales had increased to $4.5M (keep in mind that the pool business was hit very hard during these years, so any increase in sales was amazing in itself). You can watch the full interview here.

Joe Pulizzi – Content Marketing Institute

As the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe knows content marketing extremely well because he’s used it to build his entire company from scratch. Now one of the leading websites in the industry, CMI’s story is well worth listening to. You can watch the full interview here.

Rand Fishkin – SEOMoz

After starting out as an SEO consulting shop in 2004, SEOMoz has fast become one of the leading SEO software companies in the world today. Now with over 100 employees and venture backing, SEOmoz and Rand are proving the ROI on content marketing is extremely attractive. You can watch the full interview here.

Mike Stelzner – Social Media Examiner

Mike started SME back in back in October of 2009 at a time when there were already thousands of bloggers covering the topic. Despite that fact, SME has become the #2 blog in the US for small businesses and boasts a mailing list of just over 190,000 subscribers – all from a very focused content marketing strategy. You can watch the full interview here.

Conclusion

While there is no question that there is effort required to properly execute a well planned content marketing strategy, there is also no question that the benefits are substantial – and the best part is that, unlike with paid advertising, the benefits increase over time, even if your expenditures do not.

What Do You Think?

Did this article resonate with you? If so, please share it on your social networks and leave your comments down below.

Want to write for Bright Ideas? Click here.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

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