How To Write Persuasively to Clearly Demonstrate The Benefits of Your Products Or Service

Whether you’re a low-level marketing manager or novelist of 30 years, the writing process can be agonizing, especially when you’re writing about something you are passionate about.

 

Copywriting for marketing is no different. It’s hard. Not only are there very specific things that work and very specific things that don’t work, the things we learned in school are often completely antithetical to what works in the marketing field.

 

That being said, good copywriting is more about unlearning than learning. Unlearning how to write in a hoity-toity academic style, best suited for scholarly articles that no one ever reads. Unlearning how to talk about yourself like you’re trying to get someone to hire you for a job. Unlearning how to make things flowery, poetic, and over the top.

 

The good news, though, is that it’s not out of anybody’s reach. There are some very specific techniques and stylistic methods to making your writing more successful and convert visitors to your website.  That’s why we wanted to include persuasive copywriting as a foundational piece in our online small business marketing course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business.

 

If you follow these tips, your writing will get better. And not only will it get better, you’ll see more conversions on your website and a greater ROI for your company. Plus, you’ll feel less like a sleazy salesman looking to quick make a quick buck.

 

Before You Write

 

What you do before you sit down to the computer is equally – if not more – important than your writing. Any serious writer will tell you that the research process for their project is what really makes or breaks the quality of the work. Copywriting is no different, except instead of doing research on a historical event or a person, you’re doing research on your own product and your customer.

 

According to Conversion Rate Experts, you shouldn’t start writing until:

 

          • You know everything about the product.
          • You have bought and purchased the product with your own money.
          • You can understand why people buy it.
          • You could sell it to yourself or to your friends.
          • You know all the objections and have great counters to those objections.
          • You’ve gathered legal proof to support all your claims.

 

Now, sometimes it’s not realistic to have bought your own product. People selling $100,000 yachts can’t be expected to purchase their own product, especially on a salesperson’s salary.

 

But you do need to know your product intimately and how to sell it in person before you ever write about it. Your website is, for all intents and purposes, “a robot sales person,” and it won’t be any better of a sales person than you are. If you can’t sell it, your website won’t sell it either.

 

Become Your Customer

 

If you can, buy your own product. Beyond that, go through the entire buying process your customer would go through. Shop around for products like yours. Send your product back. Call technical services. Spend your own money if you can. Is it worth it? What are some of the problems that you find in the process? Can those be fixed? What objections do you have to your own process? This knowledge will become integral to you writing about your product at a later stage.

 

Now use your own product. Take it out, unpackage it, put it together, use it at your own home and in your own life. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? What are the things that it offers that competitor products don’t? This is the experience that your customer will have. And if you’re gonna’ write about your own product, you need to know what that experience is like.

 

Ask your current customers directly about their experience. Ask them what areas of weakness you have on your website. Inquire about the aspects of your product that make buying difficult for them. Find out what their objections to purchasing were. You can do this in a couple ways:

 

          • Conduct a survey on your website homepage.
          • Talk to some of your customers one-on-one.
          • Interview a VOC Aggregator.

 

A VOC aggregator is someone that’s heard the customer voice so many times they know the answer to their questions. These are the people talking directly to your customers. They can be a sales person, a technical support worker, or a repair person. They should have the opportunity to let you know what the customers are concerned about in their journey to purchasing your product.

 

The process that a buyer goes through before they purchase your product is called the “buyer’s journey”. During the buyer’s journey, your prospective customer is going to think about a great many things, including:

 

          • If your site is relevant
          • If your product is the best of its type
          • The ease of finding your product
          • If the product is what they really need
          • If your site’s claims are supported by proof
          • Whether their objections are answered
          • Whether the experience was pleasurable and they’d do it again

 

Writing persuasive copy is about answering these questions before the customer does. You want to make the experience of your customer on your website as delightful and informative as possible. By knowing your product and your customer intimately, you’re going to be infinitely farther along than other marketers that don’t do this work on the front end.

 

Enchanting Marketing calls this entire process “writing with your ears”.

 

1950s and ‘60s copywriter Eugene Schwartz said that the ability to listen is one of the greatest assets a writer could have. Instead of trying to create his own copy, Schwartz stole marketing messages from his customers and his prospects instead of inventing them himself. He essentially fed people’s words back to them so they would be more likely to make a purchase. And it worked.

 

By listening to his customers, he was able to write some of the most effective copy of his time.

 

As You Write

 

Now comes the writing process. What you do before you write is very important. But the techniques you use while you write are equally as important. Bad copy on the website can quickly turn a prospective customer away. It can make you look unprofessional – or worse, insincere.

 

But there’s good news here: most good copywriting techniques simply boil down to writing in the way you would actually talk to someone.

 

Use A Structure

 

When people talk about a product that they like, they generally follow a specific format:

 

          • Problem: what was the problem they were experiencing?
          • Solution: what was the product or person that solved that problem for them?
          • Proof: what proof is there of real transformation?
          • Action: how can the person they’re talking to repeat their experience?

 

This is also true for spiritual or philosophical transformations.

 

Here’s a couple of ways this could be expressed in real life.

 

I was really struggling to get good sleep at night now that I have my baby. A friend told me about CBD oil over coffee one day. Though I was a little hesitant, I gave it a try. I’ve had some of the best sleep of my life using it! Even better than I had before my baby! You should check it out. It’s easy. You just search for it on Google.

 

I was really depressed about some of the things I’d done in my previous marriage. It was really affecting my life. A friend of mine invited me to church. At first, I didn’t go because I was skeptical. But finally I attended one week and all that pain came out at the service. I started going more regularly and, though I certainly don’t have it all figured out, it’s really helped me to get out of the rut that I was in. It seems like you’re struggling with the same thing, so I thought that maybe you could come with me some weekend.

 

Every argument follows this same structure. And the good news is that your copy is little different. It should simply follow the same general structure as if you were telling it to someone over coffee.

 

There are multiple structures that different copywriters have suggested.

 

          • The PASTOR method
          • The 1-2-3-4 Method
          • The Inverse Pyramid

 

We here at White Hat Matt use the PASTOR format, so we’ll focus specifically on that structure in this post.  This method was popularized by Ray Edwards and that’s where we learned about it.  Thanks Ray!

 

P is for Problem

What is the problem your customer is having? Are they losing money because of a subpar software solution? Are they getting made fun of because of their acne? Are they spending way too much money on their Internet service only to have it crash on them every weekend because of overuse? Your copy needs to address the problem of the customer.

 

A is for Amplify

What’s going to happen to the customer if they don’t buy your product or service? Will they continue to lose money? Will they continue to experience social ostracization and feelings of negative self-worth? Will they continue to be frustrated by their internet’s sub-par performance? Amplify what’s really at stake here if they don’t accept what you have to offer.

 

S is for Solution

How does your product or service solve their problem? What benefits are they going to get by using your product, both practical and emotional? This is not the place to talk about the specifics of your product. Instead, talk about its benefits. What’s in it for the customer?

 

T is for Testimonial

Who has already experienced these benefits from your product? What did they say about it? What evidence is there that your product works and will work for your prospective customer? People don’t like risk. And the risk of making a purchase is less if others have gone before them and had a good experience!

 

O is for Offer

What exactly are you offering? Are you offering them a free trial of the product? Are you offering them a 10% discount for their first buy? This is where you get down to the nitty gritty of what it is you’re offering.

 

R is for Response

What are you asking your prospective customer to do? What action do you want them to take? Do you want them to fill out an email opt-in form? Are you wanting them to call you so you can talk more about their needs or desires? Do you want them to add your product to their shopping cart? Be specific about what you want your customer to do.

 

There are other copywriting methods than the PASTOR format, but they all boil down to the same thing: problem, solution, proof, and action.

 

Whichever structure you choose, it’s important that you follow it and address every section. If you do, you’ll be writing like a customer thinks. And thinking like your customers is the most important thing in the writing process.

 

Write Like A Human

 

Karl from Conversion Rate Experts says that “the act of writing turns many a genius into a moron.” What he means by this is that as soon as people sit down to write, they stop writing like they talk and start writing like they think they should. (source: How to Beat Most Professional Copywriters)

 

Good writing should sound human.

 

Your writing should sound the same way you actually speak in real life, just more polished.

 

A couple of ways you can do this is to record yourself speaking your sales pitch. Analyze it, then repeat that in your copy for your website.

 

Use as many words in your website copy as you do you selling your product face-to-face. This will probably make your website longer than you are comfortable with. But remember, your website is a robot sales person. If it is going to make sales, it needs to have all the information that you would have in a real life sales meeting.

 

Also, after you’ve written a draft, have someone else read it out loud for you. Where do they get confused? Where did they get it wrong? Where did they get hung up? These might be areas you need to improve.

 

Be Concise

 

Brevity is the soul of wit. Shorter sections and sentences are easier for people to read. People shouldn’t have to work hard to understand who you are, what you’re offering, and what you can do for them. It should be easy.

 

You can do this by using short and broken sentences. Like I’m doing right now. In high school and college, you may have learned academic writing which uses long, complex sentences. Sales copy is different. It has to be easy.

 

So use short sentences. Break up your copy with segments. Short segments are much less terrifying than a giant block of text. This also makes your content skimmable so that people can read it over quickly to take what they need and move on.

 

Be Specific

 

We’ve all been on that website where we’re halfway down the page and we still don’t know exactly what they offer. Don’t be that page! Get right to your unique value proposition with your heading. Be specific about what you’re offering and the benefits your customer will accrue.

 

Bad Heading Good Heading
We Love Web Design! We’ll Transform Your Website Into Your Best Sales Representative!
Cool Art Products For Sale! The One-Stop-Shop for All Your Art Supplies At a Discount!

 

Generic statements make you sound like a sleazy salesperson. Use specific statements to boost your credibility.

 

Bad Statement Better Statement
We’re the best copywriters in town! We’ll improve your conversions by 175% and your ROI by 124% in one year.
We believe in quality as our highest concern. Last year we had only a single quality infraction in over 900,000 products shipped.

 

Keep your sentences simple and to the point and avoid flowery adjectives. Don’t talk about your product being the best at something. Instead, state the facts that prove that it’s the best.

 

Bad Better
With our powerful, affordable product, you’ll see results quickly! Engines that use MagnaPlus oil see a 10% reduction in wear the first month it’s used.
Our Calendar App is the best on the market! Our calendar app had 1 billion more downloads than the 2nd place app last year.

 

 

Be Concise, Be Specific… But Write Long

 

One of the biggest myths in marketing is that nobody will read long copy. People are too busy, you might think, so I’m not gonna write that much on my subject.

 

That’s true if people don’t really care about what you’re offering. But if someone is going to spend $8000 on a new snowmobile, I promise you, they will read your copy.

 

Write as much as you would say in a one-on-one meeting with someone. You need to answer all objections that a customer may have about your product.

 

I had a friend who recently wanted to buy a new laptop. But glossy screens hurt his eyes. He knew that he needed to have a computer that he could fit with a matte screen. If a website did not answer this objection for him, he would certainly not make a purchase from them.

 

Every customer will have objections and questions just like this. You need to anticipate these objections and specifications and answer them in your website copy.

 

Write To Your Audience, Not To Yourself

 

Many business owners are tempted to write what they think would be interesting or convincing, not what their customers would. But remember, you’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for your customers. Instead of thinking what would make me buy the product, think about what would make them buy the product.

 

You might want your website to have a flowery, inspiring heading. But with that convince your audience to buy? You might understand big words like rotator cuff and antinominal, but would your audience understand them?

 

Instead of using the terms you use to describe your business, use the terms that your audience uses to describe your business.

 

We recently did a website for Mountain Valley Physical Therapy. Mountain Valley Therapy is a company in rural Eastern Oregon that offers physical therapy and other holistic therapy methods, such as pericardial massage and craniosacral therapy.

 

Consider if Mountain Valley physical therapy wanted to change their name to Mountain Valley Holistic Therapy. This might more accurately describe what they do, but to an audience of highly-conservative Eastern Oregon Oregon clients, this name would be confusing, not well searched for on search engines, and maybe even off-putting. For this reason it’s probably better for Mountain Valley Physical Therapy to keep their current name.

 

Remember, writing is about what your customers search for and understand. If you’re writing what you think is powerful copy and that conflicts with what your clients want and are searching for, you’re in for a rough wake-up call when your website doesn’t sell.

 

Write About Your Customer, Not Just About Yourself

 

Make sure that your copy is about the value that will be provided to your customer, not just all the features of your product.

 

Neil Patel used the example of the new iPhone 5 copy to showcase this technique. On the sales page, the word iPhone appeared 81 times. “Apple” appeared an additional 26 times. But the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ were even more prevalent. They appeared 110 times.

 

By writing about your customer, you make them feel at home and cared for on your website. You make them feel like it’s more about what they need than your product. Because it is more about filling their need than it is about your product, right? Only write about your product in regards to what it can do for your customer – not the other way around.

 

Support Your Claims With Evidence

 

The trademark of a charlatan is that they say things without any evidence to back it up. Don’t be a charlatan. Back up your claims with solid, specific evidence. If you make a claim, link to the case study that you’re referencing. This will build trust with your customers.

 

Also, use technical details to show your expertise. Technical details about your product make you more convincing. Showing exact details like names, data, and materials used shows you know what you’re talking about. You might think that these aren’t really all that important. But like Neil Patel says, details sell.

 

You can also bring people into your product with fascinating stories. Stories are personal and interesting ways of proving your product’s value. Do you have any stories you could tell about your product? What successes have you had in the past? Stories are a human way of bringing your prospective customers into your world and entertaining them a little bit.

 

Write Clear, Respectful Calls-To-Action

 

A call-to-action is a call for a customer to take a specific, desired action on your website. This could be a link to another one of your pages. It could be a button bringing them to your Contact Us page, or it could be to download your white paper.

 

A good call-to-action should be specific. It should be clear about what you’re wanting the customer to do and why they should do it. A good call-to-action should summarize the benefits, present the offer, and justify the price to the customer one more time.

 

A good call-to-action should also be respectful. It shouldn’t assume that the customer is ready to take that action. Give your website visitors more than one option. “Start today” should be followed closely by a “Read More About Our Product” option. In this way, more people will continue on their buyer’s journey on your page than just the ones ready to make a purchase.

 

After You Write

 

Woo hoo! Congratulations. You’ve written your copy. And it’s really, really good!

 

But this is just the beginning. Once your copy is up and working for you on your website, it needs to be optimized. Optimization simply means being revised based on data. Going back and optimizing your website copy will continue to make your website better and more profitable.

 

This can be done in multiple ways including:

 

          • A-B Split Tests
          • Heatmaps On Your Site
          • Surveys on your pages

 

I’m not going to go into the specifics about all of these in this blog post except to say it’s  important. According to a presentation with Paris Chopra, the founder and CEO of Visual Website Optimizer, a single word change on a website can lead to a 161% increase in conversions.

 

Visual Website Optimizer re-wrote copy for one company with the keywords that people were searching for on search engines. As a result, this company got 150% more leads, $15,000 in additional sales inquiries, and an increase in annual sales of $500,000. This is not small potatoes.

 

Bottom line, after you’re done writing, use analytics to drive further insights and make changes. Use search tools to figure out the keywords that people are actually looking for. And use surveys to gain insight into what your customers want and are having trouble with on your website.

 

Does all this sound just a little bit too daunting for you? That’s OK. You can hire someone to do this for you. You can learn more about White Hat Matt’s copywriting services on our copywriting page or hire someone locally in your area.

 

But whoever you hire, make sure you hire someone who knows what they’re doing. If you’re going to hire out your copywriting, make sure it’s someone who is getting wins with their copy in a professional setting.

 

Writing clearly and persuasively and thoroughly demonstrating the benefits of your product or service is something that anyone can do. With a little bit of learning, and a lot of unlearning, you, too, can be on your way to writing copy that works for your website.

 

Additional Reading/Listening

 

We recommend you start by picking up a free copy of How to Write Copy That Sells, by Ray Edwards. This may only be available for free for a limited time; if you find this link has gone down, just try searching for the book on Amazon.

 

Otherwise, please check out:

Ray Edwards – How to Write Copy that Sells (on the Smart Passive Income Podcast)

Conversion Rate Experts – How to Beat Most Professional Copywriters

Conversion Rate Experts – Making Websites Win (Available in Hardcover or Kindle Format)


The Unrecognized Value Behind Email Marketing

When we say “online marketing” to small business owners, most respond with, “I’m not that into social media, thanks.” Not quite what we meant, but good to know!

 

While social media marketing is a part of online marketing, it certainly isn’t the entire pie. There are many different aspects of online marketing, including Google Pay Per Click, social media marketing, web design and SEO, and email marketing,  just to name a few. All of them are important, but if you simply advertise on social media you’re going to be missing out on huge demographics of potential customers.

 

Of all the different forms of online marketing, email marketing is one of the most unrecognized and one of the most powerful.  In short, most small businesses we encounter simply ignore the advantages of email marketing.

 

Yes, we hear many objections to email marketing..

 

I don’t look at other companies’ marketing emails.

 

What if one of my emails goes to the social or promotion tab?

 

Commercial emails will irritate my customers!

 

What if my emails don’t get delivered in the first place?

 

(And here’s the big one) Email marketing just doesn’t work.

 

Well, in this blog post we’ll prove to you that email marketing not only works, but also provides certain huge advantages to a small business owner like yourself over social media marketing that should certainly not be dismissed.

Email Marketing Advantages

Is Email Marketing Dead?

 

First, like watching the TV series Star Trek, let’s take a look at the data.

 

This chart by OptInMonster shows key statistics to prove that email as a platform is nothing to sneeze at.

 

Email Facebook Twitter
Total number of users 2.6 billion 1.7 billion 313 million
First online “check” of the day 58% 11% 2%
Use this channel at least daily 91% 57% 14%
Prefer this channel for permission-based promotional messages 77% 4% 1%
Most frequently used channel for personal messages 45% 12% 0%
Users check here for a deal from a company they know 44% 4%
Users who made a purchase as the result of a marketing message from this channel 66% 20% 6%
Customers Acquired 7% <1% 0%
Inbox Placement Rate/Organic Reach 79% 1-6% <1-30%
Open/Click-Through/Engagement Rate 18% OR / 3.7% CTR 0.07% 0.03%
Distribution of Global Content Sharing Activities 4% 57% 18%
Delivers an Excellent ROI 21% 15%
Customer Lifetime Value +12% +1% -23%
Ownership Full ownership Account can be terminated Account can be terminated

https://optinmonster.com/email-marketing-vs-social-media-performance-2016-2019-statistics/

 

Email as a platform still has more users worldwide then Facebook and Twitter combined. Almost all of those users check their email at least once a day; for many of them it’s their first online activity of the day.

 

 

 

According to this chart, email is still a huge, hulking mass of a communications platform that is available to almost a quarter of the people on planet earth.

 

Email also has the highest daily check rate and the lowest never-check rate of all online marketing tools. More people are checking it more often than anything else.

 

 

And it’s growing. According to recent studies, email is still continuing to increase both in number of users and worldwide email accounts every year. This will continue through 2019.

 

https://optinmonster.com/email-marketing-vs-social-media-performance-2016-2019-statistics/

 

The types of individuals that check their email are also different. Unlike social media users, people who check their email are more likely to be looking for promotions or deals from companies that they do business with. According to this article, the amount of users who make a purchase as a result of emails is over three times the amount of Facebook, and 10 times the amount of Twitter.

 

 

Bottom line: email marketing is an established, growing communications platform that continues to lead the planet in users from almost every demographic. And there’s no signs of that changing anytime soon.

 

Or, in the words of the OptInMonster article from which these graphs were taken, EMAIL IS NOT DEAD!!

 

What Are The Benefits of Email Marketing?

 

Now we get the fun part: what are the juicy benefits of email marketing as opposed to social media?

 

Universally Used

Everything on the internet points back to your email account. When you lose your password, you go back to your email. When you make a purchase, you get your receipt in your email. People are required to check their email over and over. And as we mentioned earlier, almost every demographic and age range uses email as a primary means of communication.

 

 

Email Plays Nice With Others

Not only is email ubiquitous, it also plays well with others. No matter what other platforms you’re using for marketing – social media, Google PPC, SEO – email integrates flawlessly. For instance, you can take your email marketing content and use it to craft social media posts without having to start from scratch. Inside your emails, you can have links to your social media pages. You can also use email marketing to promote a social media marketing event, increasing traffic to your page or event. Email is a team player and will happily mix with whatever other marketing activities you’ve got up your sleeve.

 

People Prefer Email

According to research conducted by Marketing Sherpa, 60% of survey respondents chose email as their preferred way to receive promotions and updates from companies they are interested in doing business with. According to that same research, only 20% of respondents chose social media and 17% chose text messages.

 

Also according to Marketing Sherpa, 91% of US adults like to receive promotional emails from companies they already do business with. Many leads and customers are more likely to read and take action from a marketing email because they’re already looking forward to having that type of communication with you.

 

 

Furthermore, if someone’s on your email list, odds are they’re already interested in you as a company or one of your products. HubSpot calls these people “hand raisers”. They are people who have somehow ‘raised their hand’ to say yes I’m interested in what you have to offer. As a result, your odds of converting them to a lead or customer are much higher.

 

A word to the wise, though: businesses that do send unsolicited email marketing messages often sacrifice company image and success for a quick buck. As a result, many of the most reputable email marketing systems recommend not purchasing an email list but generating them organically through your business relationships.

 

Targeting

Social posting is environmental. Email is direct. When you send out a message via social media, you have no idea if the people who see it are the ones who are interested in your product. You could easily get lost in the feed. When you publish something, who sees your post is not only depends on who is on your subscriber list, but also the algorithms of social media.

 

This is not the case with email. When you send an email, it goes to every single one of your recipients every time. Delivery is not contingent on reach, algorithms or SEO. It’s one-to-one: one email, one person, every time.

 

Higher ROI

A 2016 study by GetResponse showed that email marketing delivers the highest overall ROI. Another survey by the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric of Marketers in the United States showed that email achieved a median ROI of 122%, which was more than four times higher than other marketing brands, including social media (28%), direct mail at (27%), and paid search (25%). In 2016, email marketing generated $44 of ROI for every one dollar spent, which was up from $38 in 2015.

 

‘Nuff said. The results are in: email marketing will maximize your ROI.

 

 

 

Higher Conversion Rates and Customer Acquisition

Taking a prospect from a lead to a customer is no easy task, but email does it better than anybody else. Mckinsey reports that the average order value of an email is at least three times higher than the average order value of a social media post. Also according to Mckinsey, email is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter in helping your business acquire new customers. With email marketing, you’ll have higher success in attracting that potential buyer and getting them to actually buy than you would with social.

 

https://optinmonster.com/email-marketing-vs-social-media-performance-2016-2019-statistics/

 

 

Increased Visibility

Your emails reach on average 79% of the people that you send them to. On the other hand, Facebook organic reach has declined in recent years to between 1 to 6%. That means only 1 to 6% of your fans will actually see your post at any given time. Email is a much better option for sending out both sales emails and current customer communication emails like newsletters. What good is a newsletter if only 1 to 6% of your loyal customers get to see it?

 

If your business needs a reliable way to communicate with your members and customers, you need a method you can trust. And that’s email.

 

Longer Lifetime

A study by Custora found that customers acquired by email have a 12% higher lifetime value than average. The same study showed that customers acquired through Facebook have only a 1% higher lifetime value than average.  Customers acquired through Twitter tend to be worth about 23% less than average. People who you engage via email are not only more likely to buy, they’re more likely to stick around.

 

http://blog.custora.com/custora-content/uploads/downloads/2013/07/Custora_EcommSnapshotQ213.pdf

 

 

Reduced Time Commitment

Email marketing is effective, but it’s also quick. Once you learn the basics, you’ll be able to put together an email in no time flat. And not only that, there are plenty of email marketing software out there that give you the tools and training you need to quickly learn and design emails (as opposed to the dozens of social media platforms on the market, which all have their own complicated advertising managers that require time and effort to familiarize yourself with).

 

Greater Personality

If you’re going to outshine your competitors, one-on-one communication is going to be one of the biggest guns in your holster. Opening an email is a much more personal experience than coming across a random, generic social post that is addressed to an entire community. Composing personalized emails makes sure customers feel connected to you as a business, which will dramatically increase your likelihood of getting a buy.

 

Greater Customization

Pretty much all social media posts look the same: an image or a video accompanied by text. On the other hand, emails can be customized to match your brand image and aesthetic. Are you a high-end restaurant in Chicago? Make your emails sleek and shiny and highly professional. Are you a flower shop on the Oregon coast? Include color and dynamic images of your spring flora as well as an unlimited amount of characters in the descriptions to really bring your company to life.

 

Email has no restrictions to design and no restrictions to the number of characters you’re allowed to use. It’s about as close to a blank canvas as you can get in the world of digital marketing.

 

Marketing Automation

Using email marketing software, you can design entire campaigns of emails to be sent when someone opts into your email list. That means that if someone makes a purchase, you can send them one email about the purchase, another thanking them, and another about an additional item that may be helpful, all automatically. Social media platforms have no automation powers even close to this.

 

Objections to Email Marketing

 

OK, OK. Email marketing sounds great! But there are some very viable concerns I need to have addressed before I invest my time in actually doing it!

 

Objection: I Don’t Open Other Companies’ Marketing Emails

Maybe you’re not one of the types of people that opens up your marketing emails. Fair enough, but that doesn’t mean that nobody is. Odds are that you’re not the kind of person who opens every letter you recieve that comes via snail mail either. But I personally have older friends and family that sit down every week and do exactly that.

 

The data shows that many people do, in fact, open up marketing emails and do make purchases as a result. Like so many other things in your business, it’s not necessarily about how you function, but how your customer functions. And while you may not be the type to go through each of your emails individually, your customers may be. In business you have to speak the language of your customer. If you don’t like listening to your customers’ wants and needs, why are you in business anyways?

 

Objection: My Emails Will Get Caught In The Social Or Promotions Tab

Many email platforms have distinct inbox tabs that filter out promotions and social emails to unclutter inboxes. And many marketing emails do get filtered into these tabs. That being said, there are plenty of techniques in designing your email that will minimize the likelihood of this happening.

 

Design your email in plain text and use fewer images rather than more. Don’t write a promotional email, just write an email to your customers! That way, when Gmail or Outlook scans your content, it will be less likely to recognize it as a marketing email and send it straight to the recipient’s promotions tab.

 

Undelivered Emails

What’s worse than getting demoted to the promotions or social tab? Your email not even getting delivered. Sometimes poorly designed emails may not get delivered to their intended recipients. But again, there are some best practices you can use to minimize the likelihood of this happening.

 

Don’t clutter your email with too much content. Make it simple, sleek, and easy for someone to read.

 

Also don’t use spam keywords in your subject heading or in the content of the email. Email software and platforms can discover these and remove emails that fall into this category.

 

Remember, even if a few emails don’t get delivered to a couple of recipients, you’re still getting upwards of a 70% delivery rate as opposed to a 1 to 6% delivery rate if you sent the message out via social media.

 

Design Problems

Sometimes emails with too much design have a problem displaying on tablets and phones. You need to be attentive to how your email appears on a variety of devices.

 

One way you can minimize the likelihood of appearance issues is to test your email before you send it. Most email marketing platforms have this option. If you’re not using an platform, simply send it to yourself and see how it looks on your phone.

 

Keeping your emails simple also helps here. Some people opt to receive text-only emails, so keeping your email simple increases the likelihood that these people will see it.

 

Size Issues

Sometimes slower Internet connections have difficulty downloading larger images in emails. Again, keep it simple. Use images that are small in size and only use a few of them. If your email is taking too long to load, you may lose your audience’s interest.

 

Lack of Time And Resources

I don’t have time to send out daily or weekly emails! I have enough on my plate as it is. Learning a new marketing technique no matter how simple can be a bit of a time commitment. Small business owners are already taxed for time and mental resources.

 

That being said, of all the online advertising platforms, email marketing is the easiest to pick up.

 

If you still don’t have the time, many online marketing companies including White Hat Matt offer email services to help overwhelmed small business owners like yourself start their campaigns.

 

Let’s be clear: we’re not saying that social media marketing has no value. It does, and in our recent article Quickly and Simply Start Your Business on Facebook Ads, we outline what some of those benefits are and how to quickly get started.

 

We’re saying don’t throw out the old to make way for the new so soon. According to global benchmarking research in 2017, email still has a very high rating by marketers. 53.6% of marketers rated it as excellent or good, as opposed to social media and search engine optimization which are rated second and third by marketers (social had a rating of 50.9%, and SEO had a rating of 45%). Also, more than half of the companies surveyed in this research said that they were planning to increase their email marketing budget, whereas only 7.5% were planning to decrease it.

 

Email marketing still has massive potential to increase your sales and help your brand image even in the age of social media.

 

Additional Reading

Looking to learn more? Here are some other resources about email marketing that might be of interest to you, including some of the links to pages we researched for this article. There is also a link to the free HubSpot course that will get you started on email marketing techniques and best practices.  If you’ve committed to following the course online, we highly recommend you take the entire Hubspot course.

 

 


8 Website Features You Didn’t Know You Needed, But Now Can’t Live Without

Before you start reading this article, let us preemptively state that we know how frustrating learning new web features can be.  Some people are all about the latest technology and just love adding new updates to their devices, while others just wish we could still use typewriters, for goodness’ sake!  If you’re on this website, we’re going to assume that you at least fall somewhere in the middle.

 

We’re here to tell you that, while we might cringe every time we get a notification for a software update on our iPhone, we really do believe that keeping up with new available features for our clients’ websites will save everyone time, money and sanity in the long run.  And because sifting through the literature on website features can be daunting (and boring), we thought we’d help you out by compiling our 8 favorite (and what we consider indispensable) website features that you really do need to take seriously if you want to see your business grow and prosper in the 21st century.

 

1. Staging Sites

 

Have you ever made an update to your WordPress website only to get a big fat error screen?  It has happened to us in the past too!  This might not be such a big deal if you have a website with very few visitors.  Take 1 or 2 hours, fix the bug, and you’re good, right?

 

Well, what if your website has hundreds or thousands of visitors at any given time?  How well do you think they’ll respond to your broken site?  Probably not very well.  Even worse, what if your site has e-commerce functionality and visitors are impaired from checking out and buying your products while your site is down? Not a good situation to be in!

 

This is where staging sites come in.   A staging site is an exact replica of your site, but it’s not live.  On this duplicate version of your site, you can test changes to make sure they work with your existing tech stack.  Once you’re positive that the change isn’t going to break your site, you can push the changes on the staging version of your site over to the live version.

 

In 2018 we implemented staging sites on all the sites we manage.  Anytime we update a plugin or theme on your site, or even a big content update, we test everything in a staging environment before making the changes on the live site.  This has drastically reduced downtime, errors, and given us much greater peace of mind.

 

2. CRM Integration

 

For the vast majority of us, the main purpose of our website is going to be lead generation.  That is, the goal of the site is to inform more people about our organization, products, and/or services, so that we get more business.  Consequently, a good lead-generation website needs to have a clear call-to-action and a lead generation form, at minimum.

 

Take for example my triathlon coaching site.  I get form submissions on this page all the time:

 

 

But where do all those contact form submissions go? The quick and dirty method is that they go into your email inbox, after which you need to mark those emails and follow up with them later.  But when you think about it, this is a “junior varsity” solution at best.

 

There are at least 2 big problems with this method:

 

Deliverability.  There’s a good chance that email sent from your contact form ends up in your spam folder.  If you set up your Gmail or Outlook inbox properly, this is much less likely to happen, but it’s still a possibility.  This problem is compounded by the fact that most free contact form plugins don’t store the form submission data in your website’s database.  If the message gets lost between your website and your inbox it’s gone for good, leaving your lead wondering why the heck you never followed up with them.

 

Lack of Automation.  If the contact-form-to-email method does succeed, then what? Do you have a system in place to make sure no leads get lost in the shuffle?  What if you get 50 form submissions a day? It’s highly likely that you’ll forget to follow up with at least a couple of those contacts if you don’t have a rock solid follow-up method in place.

 

Enter the glory of CRM.  Using a CRM software tool is just good business practice in our opinion, and one that sets your business/organization up for success from the start.

 

If you don’t know what a CRM even is – oh boy – prepare for an “ed-macation!”  CRM stands for Contact Relationship Management.  At minimum, it helps you manage your contact records and segment them into various lists.  Beyond that, let’s just say that using a CRM is the second best thing you can do for your small business behind owning your own website.

 

A CRM can:

  • Help you project sales and track where various leads are in your sales pipeline.
  • Remind you to complete various tasks, such as following up with leads or customers.
  • Log activities you completed with customers and leads.
  • Integrate your various points of contact.   Think emails, phone calls, Facebook messenger, etc.
  • Helps sales teams of more than 1 person understand what communication has occurred between a lead/customer and other members of the sales team.

 

Marketing Automation is the Next Wave

 

Needless to say, CRM is really, really cool.  But, it’s even better when combined with marketing automation.  According to Hubspot, “Marketing automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier. ” (source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-automation-information).

 

From my perspective, the value of marketing automation is that it provides a one-platform solution to manage your marketing and sales campaigns together.  If you’ve been around digital marketing for a while, you may have an email marketing provider, a social media automation tool, 10-15(!) social media accounts, SEO tools, an e-commerce tool, an invoicing tool, an analytics tool, a live chat tool, a push notification tool, and a CRM.  Yes, it becomes a freaking nightmare really quickly!

 

A marketing automation tool is not just necessary to have all these accounts in one place.  The real value lies in that it allows all these different pieces of software to talk to each other.

 

For example, imagine you’re a small business with physical products and your e-commerce platform didn’t talk with your accounting tool.  D’oh! You’d probably have no idea how much inventory you have on hand after just a short period of time!  Why spend hours trying to reconcile all that when you can have a tool do it for you?

 

Another example: Let’s say you provide a service and you recently began emailing a lead from Gmail.  Later on, you figure out that your lead’s preferred method of communication is Facebook Messenger.  So you start another string of messages on Messenger.  Let’s also say that you’re the business owner; you get really busy one day and have to pass on the sales process with this lead to one of your employees.  How is that employee supposed to know what you’re doing?  It only makes sense to house all your contact records within your CRM, so other people involved in sales and marketing can collaborate together.

 

CRM and Marketing Automation Recommendations

 

Here are our marketing automation recommendations so far:

Case #1.  If you:
  • provide a service
  • have a website
  • directly email and call prospects
  • see yourself using email marketing

Use Hubspot.  They have a great free CRM with limited marketing automation tools you can get started with.  Once you’re successful with their free version, you can always upgrade to a paid plan.

 

Case #2.  If you:
  • Have physical products
  • Have a brick and mortar business
  • Sell online and at your place of business.
  • Want your business to grow

Use Square.  Square will help you manage your customers, process payments, track orders and inventory, and it integrates with your online sales.  On top of all that, you can even do email marketing with Square!  Square is kind of like integrating your CRM, payment processing, and POS in one step.

 

A word of caution about Square:  Not all Square integrations are created equal.  If you’re trying to set up an e-commerce shop, Square provides you with many options. So far, Square does not integrate that well with WooCommerce, which is a popular WordPress e-commerce solution.  We’re also not that hot on setting up your website on Weebly, which is Square’s official recommendation at the moment.  You really don’t want be stuck with a website on Weebly, which for many will be an insufficient platform as they scale up their business.

 

As of early 2019, we have two recommended solutions:

 

(1) Use a native Square Checkout page.  In this case you’d have your own native website with page, products, buttons, and everything.  Then you’d redirect from a page on your site to a checkout page on squareup.com where the customer would then pay and complete their checkout.  Check out Square’s documentation on this subject for more information.

 

(2) Integrate Square with ECWID.  ECWID is a really simple e-commerce solution because it works great with WordPress and can process payments via Square.  It’s also really affordable. All you have to do is set up your online store and products within ECWID, select Square as your payment processor, then integrate ECWID with your website.  You can read more about the ECWID and Square integration here: https://squareup.com/us/en/app-marketplace/partners/ecwid.

 

Case #3, If you :
  • Primarily sell online
  • Need to send emails in conjunction with certain customer activities (i.e. bought a certain product)
  • Want to do a lot of email marketing

Use Infusionsoft.  It’s incredibly powerful and allows you to send emails using their visual email campaign builder.  You can use all sorts of conditional logic to determine who gets what email.

 

3. Easy E-Commerce Functionality

 

You’d think that e-commerce would be a staple feature of every website.  Having the ability to add products to a shopping cart then checkout with a credit card is very much a common experience of our everyday life.  But the truth is that you probably make purchases on much larger sites than your day-to-day, small business website. Smaller website developers who service smaller business owners typically focus on what is called a “lead generation website.”  That is, the goal of the site is to generate leads; actually turning those leads into customers and accepting payment is something that happens later, off the site with a point-of-sale or invoicing/accounting tool.

 

There’s nothing wrong with lead generation websites because most people are not going to want to deal with the added layer of complexity that E-commerce brings.  I can’t blame them.

 

Yes, e-commerce is a pain, it’s expensive, it’s much more difficult to execute than your typical lead gen website. But, we’ve got a solution that’s much easier to implement than your typical e-commerce solution (i.e. Woocommerce).  It’s called ECWID.

 

ECWID is great because:

    • ECWID is inexpensive.  They only charge you an ongoing subscription fee (as low as free, but you’ll likely pay $10/mo), not a percentage of each sale like EVERYONE ELSE (Shopify, Big Commerce, Stripe, etc.).  This is important if you have products that cost $500 or more.
    • ECWID offloads your shopping cart.  This means fewer things that can possibly break on your site, because your shopping cart is hosted externally.
      ECWID makes it easy to add new products, update existing products, or remove products.  Logging in to ECWID is very easy for novice users, especially in comparison to updating your shop within WordPress (as is the case with Woocommerce).
      This is the major one for us: Woocommerce, Shopify, and other e-commerce solutions severely restrict your design possibilities.  That’s why you see product pages that all look the same everywhere on the internet – main image on the left, secondary images underneath, short description on the right, and long description below.  With ECWID the only design element that you can’t 100% control is the button. If you want a big, beautiful product page on another solution, you may be out of luck.*
    • Because ECWID is not restricted to the WordPress environment, it’s flexible enough to run it on other platforms (specifically as Ebay and Facebook stores).   You are not restricted to only selling on your website. What’s more, your store can sync between several online platforms all at the same time.  No need to try to reconcile inventory by hand later.
    • Awesome Mobile App.  Want to manage your online store on the go?  ECWID has a fully functional mobile app, while the Woocommerce app is still in beta.

* Note that the ability to edit Woocommerce pages with some page builders was recently added.  However, you can still only customize certain Woocommerce specific elements even with the page builders.  You cannot add absolutely whatever you want. See the Elementor and Divi releases on the subject.

 

 

4. Off-Site Cloud Backups

 

If you’ve owned your own website for a while you probably know that you need to run backups consistently in case anything ever happens to your site.  In fact, before I had staging sites, I had to revert to a backup on tritheos.com several times. Fortunately, our preferred host, Flywheel, creates a back up of your site every day, so you’ll never be left hanging.

 

But let’s say disaster strikes and all of your host’s servers go down…for good!  Or worse yet, what if your website host went off the rails and locked down access to your site completely?  Well, they’d take your live site AND your backups with them.  What are you going to do then?

 

It’s just good practice to have someone besides your host also take backups of your site.  In 2018 we added a service that allows us to make daily off-site backups of your site.  Anything short of a nuclear war will not stop us from getting your site back!

 

5. Media Library Folders

 

If you’ve ever logged into the back end of WordPress to make web pages or write blog posts, you’ve probably noticed how limited the media library is.  In fact, the core WordPress software does not even provide the ability to create folders within your media library! This is what my site looks like with no library folders:

 

 

You basically have to keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling, and maybe…hopefully…you’ll find the image you were looking for.

 

You can imagine the headache and clutter this is going to cause.  I consider the lack of media library folders to be the greatest drawback of WordPress.  That’s why Media Library Folders is probably my favorite feature addition in 2018.

 

Now all of our library folders look like this:

 

 

The advantage is evident.  There’s no need to sift through hundreds or thousands or uncategorized media items.  You can easily drop all your images, pdfs, logos, and other media items into folders of your choosing.

 

With the media library folder solution we provide, you can even upload files directly from Google Drive or Microsoft Onedrive.  This means you don’t have to download files to your hard drive and then re-upload them to WordPress! Pretty cool.

 

6. Live Chat Integration

 

I’ll admit that I’m pretty resistant to change, so when I first saw live chat starting to pop up on other websites, I thought to myself, “what a stupid concept; why would I ever use this?!” Of course, I also said that about texting and smartphones (both of which are still stupid for the most part but have their place, by the way). Calling customer support still seemed like a better option to me at the time.  It took me a few months, but now I love the live chat feature you can find on many websites today.

 

Here are a couple of reasons why:

  1. People can communicate the specific questions they have at the exact time they are browsing your website.  For instance, I’ll often ask company reps on live chat about a feature I couldn’t find information about, or if I misunderstand their user-interface, they can direct me to the pages I need to find information about.
  2. From a marketer and designer’s perspective, when people have questions they couldn’t easily find on one of my websites, this means I probably need to make changes to my website and potentially add more information. It’s like free website usability testing and conversion optimization.
  3. Live chat is less of a commitment than calling or emailing sales or support.

According to SuperOffice.com, over half of customers now prefer using live chat over phone support.  In addition, live chat is now the leading digital communication method as well.

 

“J.D. Power found that live chat has become the leading digital contact method for online customers, as a staggering 42% of customers prefer live chat compared to just 23% for email, and 16% for social media or forums.”

(source: https://www.superoffice.com/blog/live-chat-statistics/)

 

I can’t say if live chat is right for you and your business.  It does take commitment in that, generally, someone needs to be available to operate your live chat during the hours you choose.  Still, it is an extremely easy way to help your leads move further down the sales funnel, as well as provide better customer service.

 

7. Custom Headers and Footers

 

We love developing sites in WordPress, but to be honest, manipulating headers and footers has never been an easy thing.  These areas of your site are typically controlled by your WordPress theme, and oftentimes there is not much control over the design and ability to customize your header or footer.

 

Why would you even want to customize your header or footer?  My thoughts on this typically go back to your website user and being able to answer their questions as quickly as possible.  For instance, sometimes adding a phone number and email address up above your primary navigation can be a good way to make it easy for people to reach out to you. Similarly, if someone can’t find what they’re looking for in your primary navigation, they will often look for the link in your footer menu (I do this all the time!).

 

Another reason would be to achieve all of the above, without sacrificing consistency with the rest of your site’s design.

 

Using our site builder of choice – Divi – we now have 100% design control over headers and footers.  Here’s an example of a footer we recently built that includes a slick email opt-in.

 

 

This is a feature we don’t want to abuse, however.  Following some tradition when creating headers and footers is a good thing.  If your header is more a piece of modern art than a functional element of your website, what good is that?

 

8. AMP Version for Better SEO Results

 

There are few shortcuts in SEO, but it’s wrong to say that there are none.  One big shortcut to getting better rankings in Google is to provide an AMP version of your blog posts.

 

AMP is short for “accelerated mobile pages.”  It’s basically a stripped down version of a page on your site, with the absolute minimum in design applied to the page.  This means that the page can also load super quickly.

 

Before you freak out about putting an ugly page of your site onto the internet, remember that these pages will only be served to mobile users.  Most of the time mobile design consists of a simple, one-column format anyway.

 

So what kind of results can you expect from creating an AMP version of your site? Here’s a screenshot of the amount of clicks I received to my AMP pages from my triathlon coaching site.

 

 

 

All told, I received 635 clicks from my AMP pages over a 3 month period.  That’s pretty good for a one-man site!

 

The point of having AMP pages is: If your page loads faster, Google will prefer that page because Google values speed.  Consequently, Google will reward you with higher rankings.

 

Search Engine Journal explains,

“AMP articles are even more special because they are favored by Google. Not only does AMP content appear in organic results, they even have their own top stories carousel at the top of organic searches to encourage more publishers to use AMP. This amounts to an increased SERP real estate for high ranking webpages and can dramatically increase your organic search CTR.”

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-amp-review-seo/209324/

 

Conclusion

 

The next time you’re thinking of hiring a WordPress designer/developer or hosting provider, make sure to ask them:

  1. Do you offer staging sites so that when you are updating my site we can both be assured that it doesn’t break?
  2. Do you offer CRM integration, so I can get marketing and sales results from the site?
  3. Can you get e-commerce functionality without me having to spend $20k?
  4. Are you doing off-site cloud backups so that if something should happen to my host’s servers, we can always retrieve a backup of my site?
  5. Do you have media library folders so that I don’t have to sift through media items from 2015 in order to update my site?
  6. Can you get a live chat feature on my site?
  7. Can you make my header and footer look exactly the way I want it?  Really?
  8. If I really need SEO results, are you willing to go the extra mile and install additional code I might need to succeed?

 

We think the features we added in 2018 are pretty cool, but on their own they do pale in comparison to what we have always offered: a website marketing and content strategy to ensure your site gets results, local SEO so you can rank higher in Google and get traffic to your site, SEO copywriting services to clearly demonstrate the benefits of your products/services to your target audience, results-driven web design where we optimize your site for business results first and aesthetics second, and ongoing marketing services such as email marketing, social media, content (blog) writing, and SEO campaigns. While we always strive to provide the latest and greatest features to our clients, out core offerings will never change.


7 Tips to Crush Your Small Business Online Marketing

Hi guys!  Matt Sheeks here.  I’m just starting to do some video marketing and I hope you find value in what I have to share.

First off, you need to do online marketing for your small business in 2019.  Of course, everyone knows that, but let me ask, “how’s that goin’ for ya?”

Sometimes a hard dose of the truth is a great motivator:

Studies show that…

  • 70-80% of people research a company online before visiting the small business or making a purchase. (Source)
  • 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and 47% of people click on one of the first three listings. (Source)
  • Almost 90% of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75% say they’ve increased traffic (Source)

All of this begs the question about your own digital marketing.

Do you have?

  1. No Google My Business page?
  2. Vague marketing speak in the headline of your website?
  3. A Facebook business page, but no email marketing list or campaigns?
  4. An unprofessional website?
  5. No email opt-in on your site?
  6. No search engine marketing strategy?
  7. No content promotion strategy?

If you have any of the above online marketing flaws, you’re already way behind.  But that’s okay, I’m sure your competitors love it.

Allright, maybe it’s not okay.  Maybe it’s time to fix it. “New-Year-New-You,” right?

But how do you find the time to do online marketing all by yourself? Just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean you all of a sudden have more than 24 hours in a day.

Lemme tell you, it took me forever to figure out which marketing activities actually worked, and which ones were aimed at funneling me into someone’s get-rich-quick scheme.

But, you don’t have to start from scratch like I did. If you just invest the 6 minutes before your next meeting to watch this video, you’ll be miles farther along than you were 6 minutes before.

If you follow these seven tips, you’ll experience increased ROI. You’ll experience more online leads and revenue. Your social and website will begin to work for you instead of, well, just sitting there.

Bottom line, we want to help you market your small business online simply, affordably, and for you to get results.  So check out this video.


14 Local SEO Statistics You Must Know

I’ve always said that SEO is a huge deal, and it doesn’t take long as a web designer and digital marketer to understand why.  Once you are managing several sites and have a chance to dive into the analytics of a site, a distinct pattern begins to emerge.  Even though site owners spend a lot of time attempting to drive traffic to their site from social media and from other referral sources, they inevitably get over 60% of their traffic from search engines.

The conclusion I have drawn, which is shared by many other digital marketers, is that local SEO – the practice of optimizing web pages in order to benefit local businesses – is some of lowest hanging fruit in the online marketing space.  It can literally make or break your entire business.  Personally, I have been able to create two profitable and sustainable businesses off of local SEO. One, as you can guess, is White Hat Matt, based on this very site.  The other is Tritheos Coaching Services, my triathlon coaching business.

If this infographic, originally developed by Go Globe, doesn’t convince you about the fruitfulness of investing some time and energy into local SEO, nothing will.
The importance of Local SEO
Infographic by- GO Globe Hong Kong


The Top Online Marketing Myth: “No One Will Read All That”

 

Welcome to the second module in our course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business.

 

Before we go any further in our course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business, we’re going to have to dispel some common online marketing myths.

 

Why?

 

You’re likely to be resistant to the strategies I’m going to present in future modules because of the prevalence of myths that often persist in the name of common sense.

 

How do these myths come about?

 

There are at least 4 causes:

  1. Assumptions about who your website visitors are and where they come from is incorrect.  This affects your strategy in how you build trust with your audience and how you can meet their needs.
  2. Assumptions about what’s important to your website visitors is incorrect.  This affects the information you choose to provide to them.
  3. Assumptions about how your visitors travel through your website is incorrect. This affects your content hierarchy, menu items, call-to-action buttons, and the offers that you present on your website.

 

And finally,

4. Assumptions about how people consume content on the web is incorrect.  This affects how you construct your sales message.

 

These assumptions are then perpetuated en masse until you begin to believe them.

 

Now, let’s bust through some marketing myths so we can help you grow your small business!

 

Myth #1 – No One Will Read All That

 

It is commonly asserted that because people don’t like to read, your website content should be short and to the point.

 

My caveat is that no one will read all that unless: (a) you are sharing information that people want to know, OR (b) you are trying to sell something and people need to know what they are buying.

 

The inverse would be if you’re not trying to sell anything or don’t have important information to share and you decide to create content about something anyways; then, yes, no one will read it.  But if that’s the case, why are you putting it online?

 

The problem with this myth is related to incorrect assumption #2 and #4.  Quite often people new to online marketing do not distinguish the differences in the willingness of others to consume content for random social media updates, versus the amount of content needed to create a lead, versus the amount of content needed to make a sale.

 

Short and to the point is necessary for a facebook update, but does that mean it’s what’s necessary for creating leads for $5k products, or even selling a $50-100 product?

 

Let’s dive into 3 areas where more content generally performs better – sales, conversion rate optimization, and SEO.

 

 

 

Long Sales Pages Tend to Do Better

 

Contrary to popular opinion, copywriters, conversion rate optimization experts, and SEO experts agree that longer sales pages tend to do better.

 

Why?

 

That’s simple: People want to know what they are buying.

 

In the words of famous entrepreneur Neil Patel, co-founder or Crazy Egg and Kissmetrics:

 

“Conversion Rate Optimization is like dating.  So, if I go up to a random person…and I say, ‘will you marry me right now…chances are she’d say no. Why would she say no? [asks for response from audience]…exactly, you don’t know them.  That’s the way the internet works too. Why would you expect someone to just come to your website, and you say, “Hey, buy something for $1000” and expect them to say ‘okay, here’s my credit card’…but once you get to know someone, they are much more likely to say yes.”  (from: Neil Patel’s Top Ten Rules for Success)

 

These are intelligent words from Neil put into common sense lingo. People are generally not going to buy from you if they don’t trust you. They don’t trust you if they don’t know you.

 

Similarly, they won’t trust your offer if they don’t know exactly what they are going to get.

 

King of Copywriting David Ogilvy puts in his two cents on why lots of information tends to do better on sales pages:

 

“Direct response advertisers know that short copy doesn’t sell. In split-run tests, long copy invariably outsells short copy. But I must warn you that if you want your long copy to be read, you had better write it well. In particular, your first paragraph should be a grabber…Long copy sells more than short copy, particularly when you are asking the reader to spend a lot of money. Only amateurs use short copy.”

 

Conversion Rate Experts throw their hat into the ring on this subject when they say:

 

“Marketers have been debating for a long time about how much copy to include. In general, write as much as it takes to communicate your entire sales message and to overcome all the likely objections. You are aiming to condense as many persuasive arguments and as much relevant information into as little text as possible. Conveying all of this information will usually require more words than most websites currently use.

 

Include all the information that customers could possibly require in order to make a purchase. (Note that it doesn’t all need to be on the main product page.)  Make sure to address all the common objections that your customers bring up. Compile a chart of objections and counter-objections, and then rank them in order of importance.”

Source: https://conversion-rate-experts.com/cro-tips/

 

According to the Crazy Egg blog, conversion rate optimization studies have been performed on advertisements for years.  Crazy Egg relays the findings:

 

“A second team of scientists found that readers of an industrial magazine were significantly more likely to read ads containing long, rather than short, copy. The researchers “found that short copy is less effective in arousing the interest of readers. The results suggest that longer ad copy is needed to communicate the type of information sought by industrial prospects, empirically confirming beliefs held by the advertising industry.”

Source: https://www.crazyegg.com/blog/high-performing-landing-pages/

 

Free Trials Achieves the Same or Better Effect than Long Sales Pages

 

Now, this doesn’t necessarily prove that a longer page with more written content always wins.  Just having length doesn’t mean you’ve provided the most relevant information. In fact, buyers can get to know you and your product/service through other means, such as with a free trial.  Neil Patel is also famous for “reversing the sales funnel.” That is, he allows users to try the product before they buy it, either through a free trial or freemium version of his software. This takes away much of the risk of the unknown on the part of the buyer.  Instead of having to take a leap of faith and make an educated guess about whether or not a product will work for them, they are able to test-drive the product. This seems to be more effective than having a long sales page.

 

Conversion Rate Experts also comments on this technique when they write:

 

In general, do whatever you can to get the product into the customer’s hands. If you’re so confident in your product, prove it by taking some of the risk.”

Source: https://conversion-rate-experts.com/cro-tips/

 

What to Do When You Can’t Offer a Free Trial

 

But, not all industries can employ the “try before you buy” approach.  This works particularly well in the SAAS industry; it also works in car sales.  But it doesn’t work that well when you can’t physically examine the product and can’t use a free trial.  If that is the case you’re going to need a convincing argument about the superiority of your product, and in most cases it is going to take some length to say it.

 

Barry A. Densa, from Melissa Global Intelligence, sums it up when he writes:

 

“You simply cannot provide all the information—a compelling story, incontrovertible proof, undeniable credibility, risk reversal, and an irresistible offer—all of which is necessary to convince, persuade and close a difficult sale—in… Click To Tweet

Source: https://www.melissadata.com/enews/marketingadvisor/articles/0910c/1.htm

 

An Important Case Study Where Long Form Content Won

 

This screenshot below shows the sales improvement achieved by Protalus, maker of an over-the-counter corrective insole, by moving to a longer sales page:

 

They comment on their rationale for moving to a longer sales page:

 

“On a landing page, you must overcorrect because you lack the back- and-forth conversation in a live selling situation. Below is the list of key elements on the winning page.”

 

They go on to state the key elements to their sales page which basically amounted to answering customer objections, including (1) Price too high, (2) Not sure it will work, (3) Not sure it will work for my specific condition, (4) Difficulty navigating the website.

 

The conversion optimization company then added sections specifically addressing each objection.  The result was a page 5 or 6 times as long as the original. This increase in sales page length increased sales by 91% in 6 months.

Source: https://moz.com/blog/cro-case-study

 

The Protalus case study highlights a belief commonly held by pro copywriters.  In a live sales situation, you can answer your customer’s questions at that moment.  But on a sales page on the web you don’t know which questions or objections your visitor will have…so you need to answer all of them.  This overcompensation often means you may arrive at a significantly long sales page.

 

Sales Page Length and Conversion Rates For Different Types of Offers

 

We’ve already covered how a longer sales page isn’t an absolute necessity because there are ways of communicating your message, overcoming objections, and demonstrating the value of your product/service through other means.  But does this mean that long copy always wins where free trials or video are unbecoming? Bob Kemper, Director of Sciences at MECLABS and an authority on analyzing long versus short copy, relayed his findings on hundreds of A/B tests comparing short to long copy.

 

He found that (a) inexpensive purchases generally required shorter sales copy, (b) short copy generally performed better with products that were purchased due to emotional, impulsive, or want-oriented buying behavior, (c) if you’ve already established good brand identity and trust with your prospective buyer, not as much information is required because they already know and trust you.

Source: https://www.crazyegg.com/blog/high-performing-landing-pages/

 

Lead Vs Sale?

 

One final issue is the difference between asking for a sale and asking for a lead.  Are you asking for payment right then and there on a website page, or are you just looking to get someone’s contact information?  Regarding this distinction, Bob Kemper concludes:

 

“If you’re asking for $$$, people need way more information to make a decision and hence a long form page might be a more suitable option. In the end, it depends on the goal of your home page….long copy is the better performer when there is a rational, analytical, need-oriented motivation. Think consumer insurance products or many complex B2B offerings.”

Source: https://conversionxl.com/4-cases-where-short-home-pages-outperformed-long-home-pages/

 

What Kemper is saying here is that if you are asking for a visitor to make a purchase on the spot, you’re likely going to need longer content.  If all you are asking for is a lead, such as someone picking up the phone, emailing you, or completing a contact form submission, you won’t necessarily have to counter every objection or answer every question, because you can do that down the road once your prospect begins to have more interactions with you.

 

What this all amounts to is the avoidance of making your website visitors and potential customers do all the heavy lifting.  Give them some information about you, build some trust; don’t make them knock down your door to figure out who you are, what you offer, and what makes your business special.

 

Long Form Content Tends to do Better In SEO

 

In a landmark study of top search engine results, Brian Dean of Backlinko, in conjunction with Ahrefs, SEMRush, Market Muse, SimilarWeb and Clickstream, found that the top search engine results were, on the average, occupied with pages of about 2000 words of content.  Here is a quick graphic that illustrates their findings.

 

 

As you can see, after about position #2, as word count decreases, rankings tend to decrease as well.  This isn’t true for every type of content in SEO, but it is true for the majority.

 

Brian Dean comments:

“After removing outliers from our data (pages that contained fewer than 51 words and more than 9999 words), we discovered that pages with longer content ranked significantly better than short content. In fact, the average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.

 

This correlation could be due to the fact that longer content generates significantly more social shares. Or it could be an inherent preference in Google for longer articles.  Another theory is that longer content boosts your page’s topical relevancy, which gives Google a deeper understanding of your content’s topic.”

Source: https://backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking

 

This is why Dean, in his post on optimizing on-page SEO, gives the following pieces of advice to posting long content:

 

“The SEO adage “length is strength” was supported by our industry study which found that longer content tends to rank significantly higher on Google’s first page. Aim for at least 1900 words for every piece of content that you publish.”

 

When it comes to social media, people will likely not want to read 1000 word posts.  But when it comes to web users who have informational or transactional intent, they will be willing to consume large amounts of content.

 

In the case of someone with informational intent (think blogs posts and SEO), their goal is to accumulate knowledge, so of course they are willing to “read all that.”

 

In the case of someone with transactional intent (think business and sales pages), they want to make sure they are making wise use of their money (except in the case of impulse purchases), so they also need a good amount of content to make an informed decision.

 

Text vs Video vs Audio

 

One question we should answer before we finish off this section is:  “Do I always have to use a ton of text?”

 

The answer for SEO is “probably,” because search engines are much better at crawling text then they are at understanding videos and audio.

 

For sales, however, you could communicate your message through video, audio, infographics etc.  It really depends on the type of product or service you offer and your production quality over the variety of mediums at your disposal.

 

Here are some alternatives to using long form text content:

 

Physical product – consider doing an unboxing video and show your product works in action.

 

Software as a Service – offer a free trial of your product or freemium version.  Even better, offer a live demo of your product right on your site. Elegant Themes, for instance, is crushing their competition by offering a live demo [link] of their front-end page builder, Divi.  This way, visitors don’t have to go through the trouble of downloading or signing up in order to test out the product. Why gate your product when people can try it immediately?

 

Service – Offer some free miniature version of your actual service.  For instance, I am a web designer and digital marketer [link] and offer 3 different free services in order to build trust and clinch a sale.  I offer:

 

  • A free SEO-specific audit, where the user completes a form and their audit is delivered to them electronically.  All of this happens automatically on my site and is initiated by the user.
  • A hands-on website audit, so we can understand what’s wrong with your site and how to fix it.  In this case I take 1-1.5 hours and look at everything from search engine rankings, to website speed, to conversion funnel.
  • A discovery process that occurs before my proposal/estimate process, so I can understand what strategies to employ once I start a web design project and/or traffic and conversion campaign.  This alone delivers a ton of value, helping prospects understand their competition, target audience, and available strategies and tactics.

 

So what happens if you buy into the myth that “no one will read all that?”

 

  1. No traffic.  People won’t be able to find you online from search engines.

 

  1. No conversion.  People won’t trust you enough to buy from you, won’t understand your offer, or won’t even bother contacting you.

 

Okay, myth #1 is sufficiently busted!  If you read all the way to the end, then that pretty much proves my point.  You read all that!

 

In the next article, we’ll move onto myth #2: Online Marketing = Social Media Marketing

 

But before we do move on, we need to answer how you are going put your long form content knowledge into use?

 

It’s difficult to give any advice that is “one size fits all.”  If you’re just starting to get your small business online, here’s are some potential action steps you could take:

 

Homework:
  • Begin writing down objections people have to buying your product or service, preferably during live selling situations.
  • Add an FAQ page to your site, answering all the objections you hear.
  • Add an About Page to your site.  The About Page tends to be the 2nd most popular page on a site, on average.  This will help build trust with your audience and add some personality to your brand.

Just making those 3 small changes would have a big impact on your conversions.

 

If you’re following this class on-line and keeping up with your coursework, here are your next steps:

 

If you haven’t already done so, sign up for Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing Course.  You should have already watched “Inbound Marketing Fundamentals”
Watch “Planning a Long Term Content Strategy” and take the quiz at the end.  Repeat the quiz until you score 100%

 

(Editorial Note:  Since beginning creating this online course, Hubspot has restructured their inbound course offerings.  We will be using the course “Inbound Marketing” primarily, but will also draw from the “Inbound” course.)

 

Additional Resources:

Brian DeanWe Analyzed 1 Million Google Search Results.  Here’s What We Learned About SEO

Neil PatelHow to Share Your Brand’s Story on Your About Page

 


Social For Show and SEO For Dough: Social vs Search Infographic

Social Media vs SEO

I’ve always said that you should use social for show and SEO for dough, and this new infographic originally from Orbit Media Studios confirms it!  At least in part.

Why is SEO (and pay-per-click, to some extent) preferable to social for most businesses looking to gain visitors and leads?  It’s pretty simple:  Most people begin their research for buying decisions on search engines, not social media.  Social media is where we interact with people; it’s less likely to be the place where we interact with companies and products.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater though!  Social media can be great for building brand recognition.  For some business models, paid advertising on social media platforms can be quite effective.

How about you?  How do you use search engines and social media differently?  Check out the infographic and comment below.

 

Social Media and SEO


Why Google My Business is Crucial for Small Business Success

In module #1 of our course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow any Small Business, we’re going to take a deep dive into Google My Business and why it is so important for small businesses.  

We’re going to cover:

  • What is Google My Business
  • Why is Google My Business Worth Your Time
  • How to Employ a Google My Business Strategy to increase Leads and Customers

 

Why are we covering this so early on?

 

I want to provide small businesses with a “quick win” right out of the gate with this course, and Google My Business is going to be the best way to do it for most small businesses – at least those that have a physical location.  After this module we’ll move back into some fundamentals such as content strategy and persona creation.

 

I want to begin with one caveat though, which is that Google My Business is crucial for local small business success.  While nearly all small businesses will benefit from some knowledge of Google My Business, it is really the businesses that are tied to a geographic location that stand to gain (and lose) the most based on their Google My Business presence.  However, even if you aren’t a local business, what you will learn in this module is still of value, because it can be applied and adapted elsewhere.

 

What is Google My Business?

 

Google My Business is your company’s business listing, which can be displayed across a variety of Google Products.  The name has changed several times, which gets frustrating – you may hear Google My Business referred to as Google+ or Google Places, for instance, so don’t let this trip you up.  

 

Google My Business Listings can include: address, business hours, business description, photos (both business and user submitted), reviews, and other types of content depending on your industry.  Buttons redirecting the visitor to the business website and location on a map are often present.

 

We’ll use my triathlon coaching business to give you a visual sense:

 

 

You’ll notice that unlike a lot of other local businesses, because I don’t work out of a fixed location, my address is hidden, so Google instead shows the geographic area where I work.  This type of business is known as a service area business. You can learn more about service area businesses over at the Moz Blog.

 

Your Google Listing will typically appear:

  • To the right of search results, similar to where the Knowledge Graph would usually appear.
  • In the Local Pack, aka “snack pack” in Google search results, where Google displays a map snippet above the organic listings.
  • If someone clicks on your business location/listing within Google Maps

 

You’re probably wondering, when does Google choose to show your Google My Business listing?  You’ve probably noticed that sometimes these listings show up, and sometimes they don’t.

 

The top reasons why your business listing will show up are:

(a) if the searcher types in your exact business name (i.e. Tritheos coaching services),

(b) if your business fits a keyword searched in Google (i.e. seattle triathlon coach) for which there is little to no other competition,

(c) if your business fits the category of query a mobile user makes (i.e. restaurant near me) while they are in your same geographic location.

 

Now that we’ve covered the what, where, and when, let’s discuss why you should get started with Google My Business, or start using your current listing to it’s full potential.

 

Why is Google My Business Worth Your Time?

 

Investing some effort into Google My Business will most likely give you the best ROI in the quickest amount of time, if you are a local business.  Let’s go through four reasons.

 

Reason #1 – Users Can Find Your Business Quickly

 

Google My Business is often the quickest way for potential customers to get information about you online.  Think about it – if someone is within a Google Application (Google search or Google Maps) and is searching for generic terms within Google, they don’t have to navigate out of the application they are using (google.com or Google Maps) to get information about your business.  This allows them to make quick comparisons between you and your competitors. Therefore, Google My Business is often a web user’s first impression of your business.

 

Reason #2 – It’s Free and Easy to Set Up

 

Google My Business is also free, and it is pretty easy to set up, especially in comparison to other online marketing efforts.  Enough said here.  We’ll cover more about setup in the strategy section.

 

Reason #3 – Google is Always Adding More Features

 

In addition to this, Google appears to be adding more and more features to Google My Business.  In turn, this means users can find more information about your business without exiting the Google application.  In many cases users will be able to make a decision about your business without ever clicking through to your website; conversely, users will be unlikely to even consider your business as a viable option if your information is incomplete in comparison to your competitors.

Features recently added to Google My Business include:

  • Ability to check gas prices
  • Ability to check lodging rates and availability
  • Ability to register for yoga classes
  • Peak times at a business
  • Average time spent at a business

 

Reason #4 – User Reviews Are in Your Face

 

Because reviews are so prominent within search results (and likely to be authentic, and therefore trusted), this makes garnering reviews within Google My Business a top priority.   

 

Google My Business appears to be a must-do for local businesses that rely heavily on reviews – think restaurants, lodging (hotel, motel, B &B), salon and beauty, mechanics, etc.

 

How to Employ a Google My Business Strategy

 

Fortunately, employing a Google My Business Strategy is easy.  The key is to integrate your Google My Business strategy into your everyday business operations.  

 

To get started, all you have to do is go to https://www.google.com/business/ and click “start now.”

 

 

After that, simply start filling in all of your business details.  You will want to fill in as much detail about your business as possible.  

 

 

Make Sure Name, Address, and Phone (NAP) Matches Other Listings

 

In addition, you should use the same exact business name, address, and phone number as you do elsewhere throughout the web.  This gets into the issue of NAP citations for local SEO, which is not within the scope of this article.  Suffice to say, you want to have the business name, address, and phone number of all your business listings online to be exactly the same.  On a higher level, make sure none of your listings have outdated phone numbers or addresses..  But local SEO can get even more nit-picky than that.  Ideally the characters for each listing would be exactly the same, even down to always using “ave” vs. a combination of “ave” and “avenue” across multiple listings.

 

Aim for Consistent Branding

 

It’s also important to make sure that branding within your Google My Business profile is consistent with the rest of your online presence.  You’ll want to use the same profile picture, logo, and background images that match your website and other social media profiles.  Similarly, the copy in your business description should be similar to what is found on your website.  Overall, you want your Google My Business profile to have the same look and feel as how you present yourself elsewhere on the web and even in print media.

 

Verifying Your Address for Google My Business

 

Google will send a postcard in the mail to verify your address. Make sure to look for this!  Your listing won’t be complete until your address is verified.

 

Hide Your Address if You Are a Service Area Business

 

Businesses that do not operate out of a physical address (Service Area Businesses or SABS) will want to hide their address on their Google My Business page.  Instead, it’s pretty easy to set a geographic service area for your business.  While it may be tempting to leave your home address on your Google My Business listing in order to compete in local search engine results, it isn’t worth the fear or potential headache of customers arriving at your home address (this will happen eventually).  Besides that, if you don’t technically staff your “location” during business hours, it’s against Google’s terms of service to leave your address unhidden.  

 

For SABs, if you have your profile set up correctly, it will look something like this:

 

 

For all businesses that do operate out of a physical location that a customer can actually visit, by all means, display your address!

 

Keep Your Business Listing Up-to-date and Ask for Reviews

 

Once you have your account created, your top priorities with Google My Business should be to maintain the listing with accurate information and ask for reviews.  

 

When asking for reviews, make sure you don’t violate Google’s terms of service, or anyone else’s, including the FCC.  

 

Writes Local SEO don Mike Blumenthal, “With a blog post, testimonial, review or celebrity endorsement, if there is any form of compensation or close relationship between the party giving the endorsement and the business receiving it, it is required that the relationship be made explicit.  It is now clear that these rules apply to online reviews for local businesses as well.”  (source: https://www.reviewtrackers.com/requesting-dont-incentivize/)

 

If you incentivize the review process, technically the FCC would require the reviewer to disclose that the review was left in exchange for an incentive.  Granted, the FCC probably has bigger fish to fry than cracking down on your restaurant for giving a 15% discount on someone’s next entree, but still, it’s best to play things by the book.

 

When it comes to Yelp, it is actually against their terms of service to even ask for a review!  But at the time of this writing, it is a-okay with Google.  

 

If you want, you can even steal the template I use to ask for reviews:

 

Hi [name],

I have a small favor to ask. I am trying to get some positive reviews on Google My Business, and was wondering if you can leave a review. It doesn’t have to be long, you can just write a couple of sentences.

If you had a positive experience with my coaching, could you please explain in your own words what you found that was valuable?  

Just type in “Tritheos Coaching Services by Matt Sheeks” into a Google Search Bar and click on “write a review” to the right:

This will make a big difference to me! Thanks so much for your help!

Matt

 

Basically, the more positive reviews you can rack up, the more positively you’ll be viewed by both Google users and search engines themselves.

 

Other Common Features You Must Take Advantage Of

 

I’m often perplexed at small businesses that don’t optimize their Google My Business account.  This seems like the opportunity cost equivalent of throwing money down a bottomless pit.  One obvious example is gas stations not publishing their gas prices on Google My Business.  To a customer using the Google Maps app to find a gas station, that’s like saying, “Go away, I don’t want your money!  Just think of all the missed sales opportunities for gas stations that fail to publish their prices.

 

 

Another example is hotels and lodging establishments that fail to publish their nightly rate.

 

 

One feature that restaurants using Google My Business have been slow to adopt is the ability to take reservations and allow customers to order ahead.  The slow adoption of this is – in my mind – partially justified, because it takes a good deal of integration into a restaurant’s preexisting business practices to pull it off.

 

 

In several other industries, a new feature is the ability to direct prospective clients to an appointment calendar.  You can imagine how satisfying it would be as a consumer to set up an appointment quickly and easily using this feature.  Therefore, this is a must for most local businesses in the service industry.

 

Again, feel free to steal my strategy.  I use Hubspot as my CRM (Contact Relationship Management) which manages my business leads, calendar, and even allows me to save some email templates so I’m not regurgitating the same message over and over.

 

You can view my Hubspot appointment calendar here:

 

https://app.hubspot.com/meetings/matt277

 

Conclusion

 

My grandpa used to teach a college algebra class. This was really a high school level math course, but taught at the college level.  In informal settings, he’d refer to it as “Bonehead 101,” because the students in his course should have already known 9th grade algebra!  You’d think that publishing your prices on the world’s most popular site would be Bonehead 101 for small businesses.  Sadly, lots of businesses fail to take full advantage of their Google My Business page.

 

At the end of the day, a human being is behind all of those Google My Business pages we see on a daily basis.  And whenever there is a human that needs to take action, there is the possibility of human error and human laziness.  That’s good news for you if you’re willing to keep your Google My Business page up to date.  So get on top of this!  Gain a competitive advantage by registering for a Google My Business page now and take advantage of every feature that Google will allow your business.  It’s not that hard and the ROI is incredible.

 

Next time, I’ll do a quick supplementary post on how to avoid Google My Business (and other Local SEO) scams.  I know that, at least in my area, this will be a much needed post.

Homework:

 

If you’re following this class formally, whether in-person or on-line, you’ll need to complete these steps before the next class.

  1. Create your Google My Business Page
  2. Brainstorm ways you can start asking for reviews
  3. Ask for your first review
Additional (Optional) Reading:

Neil Patel – How to Conduct a Local SEO Audit in 45 Minutes

Moz – Which Digital Marketing Options Best Fit Your Business?


7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Need Digital Marketing (Course Introduction)

 

Have you ever wanted to move beyond marketing theory and into what it takes to successfully market a small business online?  Our Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics course will help your business develop new leads and customers in order for your business or organization to grow.  

 

This article is to designed to help you navigate the course. Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business is divided into 10 modules per term, for a total of 3 terms. This follows the conventional quarter system course schedule.  If you plan to commit yourself to the entire course, we recommend going at a speed of 1 module per week or perhaps 1 module every 2 weeks if you intend to follow the course purely online.

 

The course is designed to give you the basics of marketing any business online; once you’ve completed the course you’ll have 80-90% of the knowledge you need as a small business owner to successfully attract enough customers so that you’ll never have to worry about whether you’ll have enough business again.

 

We currently do not have plans to offer the course in person in La Grande, Oregon, as we have in the past.  However, should you need additional training or want hands on help marketing your business you can always reach out using contact form and we would be happy to train you in person.

 

Modules, 1st Term

  1. Why Google My Business is Crucial for Small Business Success
  2. The Top Online Marketing Myths and How They Hinder Small Business Growth
  3. The 7 Components of a Successful Online Marketing Plan
  4. How to Write Persuasively to Clearly Demonstrate the Benefits of Your Product or Service.
  5. How to Employ Search Engine Optimization to Get Free Exposure and Traffic to Your Website
  6. Whether Pay-Per-Click Advertising is Really Worth It
  7. What is WordPress and Why is it the Best Platform for Small Businesses?
  8. The Best Website and Online Marketing Tools to Help Small Businesses Succeed
  9. The Unrecognized Value Behind Email Marketing
  10. The Truth About Social Media Marketing
  11. Affiliate Marketing and How to Start Creating a Supplemental Income Immediately

 

The course then repeats the same subjects for the following terms.  Think of each term as proceeding from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced for each subject.

 

Module Subjects, 2nd and 3rd Terms

  1. Google My Business
  2. Marketing Strategy and Planning
  3. Copywriting
  4. SEO
  5. Pay-Per-Click
  6. WordPress
  7. Online Tools
  8. Email Marketing
  9. Social Media
  10. Affiliate Marketing

 

Why Small Businesses Need Online Marketing

Several reasons exist for why small businesses need to invest time, effort, and even dollars into online marketing efforts.  Some of these are obvious, such as the increase in computer and smartphone usage to research businesses and ultimately make buying decisions.  But some of the strengths of digital marketing may be less obvious to the unaccustomed.  Let’s dive into the top 7 reasons small businesses should get busy with their online marketing. Five of these reasons are conceptual in nature, while the other two refer to trends in consumer behavior.  The first five will always be true, while the trends we have noticed (as of 2017) may change over time.

 

 

Five concepts drive the need for Online Marketing: Power, Ownership, FlexibilityCost, and Control.  

 

It will be noted here that these concepts are applicable only to the method of marketing espoused in this course.  There are any number of online marketing strategies which can be employed which do not fit where the above concepts do not fit (online gambling marketing, marketing with a heavy emphasis on paid advertising, black hat SEO, etc.). We can define the method espoused in this course as: content marketing based primarily on one’s self-hosted website, where traffic is driven primarily by Search-Engine-Optimization, organic social media and influencer marketing.

 

#1 – Power

No one can debate the power inherent in presenting information in an an online format.  Certainly, creating web content takes a lot of time, but your efforts can be multiplied because of the ability to reach a worldwide audience. Representing your business online is similar to being in two or more places at one time!  

 

Many of you are familiar with the concept of an elevator pitch.  Imagine being able to give the elevator pitch for your business to only one person.  Now imagine giving the same elevator pitch to a group of ten in the same elevator.  Now, imagine giving an elevator pitch to 10 people in 100 separate elevators located in 100 separate countries.  Finally, imagine giving an elevator pitch to 10 people in 100 separate countries, yesterday, today, tomorrow, and for the next 100 days, but only having to give that elevator pitch one-time.  Such is the power of having content related to your business available online.

 

Another powerful element in digital marketing (hence the term, digital), is the ability to deliver the message in multiple formats.  Text, audio, images, infographics, video – all of these are preferable to different audience members at different points in time.

 

Personally, if I’m really intent on learning something quickly, I will gravitate towards text-based content such as blog posts, articles, online tutorials, etc.  I can easily find the information I want by scrolling the content and looking at sub-headings.  Many times, I will read the article in its entirety, if I have time.  It’s also easier for me to return to the same article in order to re-read, cut-and-paste, or reference a certain section.  This is currently much more difficult to accomplish with audio or video.

 

If I’m driving, audio, specifically podcasts, are my preferred method of consuming content.  I can turn my car into a rolling University, maximizing my time in the car so I can focus on producing content when I am stationary and at my desk.  

 

However, if I want to be entertained, perhaps while eating a meal, I will gravitate towards video.  I have to interact far less with content.  Video is slightly more passive, it seems, in that I can let the information come to me.  As an added bonus, I rarely have to touch the trackpad of my laptop with dirty fingers!

 

#2 – Ownership

Unlike traditional advertising, the methods promoted in this course are not based on a pay-for-placement system.  This is where “marketing” is much broader in scope than simply “advertising,”

 

If you think about paid advertising, it can usually be accomplished because the other guy – the one charging you – is delivering content in order to drive eyeballs to whatever medium he controls.  

 

Newspapers could be considered one of the oldest forms of content marketing.  Because people are willing to look at and read the newspaper, this opens up the opportunity for the newspaper company to be able to charge for space within the newspaper.  You pay for access to their audience.  Similarly, companies that operate billboards have some sort of control over the land where the billboard is located.  This allows them to charge for space on a sign in an area that is highly trafficked.

 

Finally, we have pay-per-click advertising.  Paid advertising only exists because people want access to the organic or unpaid results found in search engines.  Indeed, according to Rand Fishkin of Moz, about 90% of the clicks go to the organic (or unpaid) results.  While there is profit to be had in pay-per-click, the attractiveness of optimizing one’s site for the organic listings, a practice known as Search-Engine-Optimizaition, is undeniable.

 

When you own the platform, no one can charge you for the placement of your message.  At a minimum, you’ll need to pay for a budget website hosting plan (~$5/month) and possibly a premium WordPress theme (~$50/one-time).

 

If you create content, there might be costs involved in the creation of the content itself, but no one can charge you to place the content on their medium.   It’s only your time and effort involved.

 

#3 – Flexibility

This segways nicely into the 3rd concept we need to look at when discussing the advantages of online/digital marketing.  Once a website or other piece of content exists, there are multiple ways to utilize our platform of choice, which is a website.  All of the modules in this course – Copywriting, SEO, Email Marketing, Web Design – all seem to work in harmony to get results for the website owner, whatever the owner’s objective may be.  

 

Personally, I certainly use my website for purposes that have a clear financial outcome.  But I also use it for causes which I believe in deeply and which give me no monetary gain.  

 

In addition to multiple types of website utilization, there are multiple ways to promote the message of that website or page.

 

We’ve already discussed SEO, the practice of making webpages more amenable – simultaneously – to human web users and to the search engines themselves.  This is an immensely practical way of driving traffic to a website because of the minimal upkeep needed to continue driving traffic.  But there are yet other ways to drive traffic to a website or piece of content.  Social Media, E-mail, and even Paid Advertising come to mind.  Even print advertising can drive a good deal of direct traffic.

 

#4 – Cost

The simplest way to think about owning a website and performing content marketing is to think about renting versus owning a home.  When you purchase a home, you pay one amount (although you may have a mortgage payment!), and can continue to utilize the benefits of the real estate as you please.  With renting, you make recurring payments and are bound to the stipulations provided by the owner of how you may use the property.

 

This is very similar to owning your online content versus renting.  If you advertise on someone else’s platform, let’s say it’s Facebook Advertising, you pay them on a recurring basis and they dictate where you can place the ad.  If you create your own content on your own property, you can continue to derive benefits from that piece of content in a residual fashion.

 

#5 – Control

Within all 4 of these elements is the concept of control.  When the message and content is produced on your own property, you have more control over the outcome traffic and conversion of the traffic.  When you build your “house” on someone else’s foundation, whether that be Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, etc., they make the rules and can change the rules at anytime, leaving you as the business owner and content creator in the position of having to pivot.  One can’t help but think of the mass demonetization of Youtube channels recently that were deemed too politically controversial by Youtube.  When you own the web-property, you still have to pivot with changes in technology, the economy, and in your own industry, but these changes can be made according to your own schedule.

 

Of course, you don’t need to memorize or even know these concepts in order to start taking advantage of content marketing.  I certainly didn’t when I started out.  But knowing the advantages of digital marketing can certainly influence a business’s willingness to stick with their online marketing efforts.

 

Now let’s look at emerging trends in consumer behavior that make digital marketing even more attractive.

 

#6 – 97% of Consumers Search for Local Businesses Online

Currently, consumers are searching for information about local businesses at a rate that outpaces the amount of information given by the businesses themselves.  This creates a massive opportunity for small and/or local businesses that decide to get savvy with their marketing efforts.

 

According to Eventility, 97% of consumers will search for local businesses online. Source: Forbes

 

In addition, according to research conducted in 2016, “50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a business [for that search] within a day.” ( Source: Google )

 

Image Source: Go Globe 

 

#7 – Consumers Trust Online Reviews

The value of online reviews and the effect it can have on small businesses is staggering.  Yet, it is perplexing that local businesses place so little value on online reviews.  

 

According to a 2016 survey conducted by Bright Local, the seminal surveyor on the topic, 50% of consumers regularly check online reviews for local businesses, 41% occasionally check online reviews, and only 9% do not check online reviews.  So, in total, 91% of those surveyed check online reviews at least some of the time.

 

 

In addition, 39% of people claim that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business, while 24% claim that negative reviews deter them from using a business.

 

 

Among the most popular types of businesses that consumers sought reviews for include: (1) restaurants (60% of participants searched for), (2) Hotel/B & B (40%), and (3) Medical/Healthcare (31%).

 

Finally, 84% of people will trust an online review just as much as they trust a personal recommendation. (source: Bright Local

 

Conclusions Based on Consumer Behavior

These numbers have only increased in favor of consumers reading and trusting online reviews over the years the survey was conducted.

 

In our course, we’re going to teach you the best methods for reaching out to customers in order to garner positive reviews.  According to Reevo, having online reviews results in an 18% uplift in sales.  Adding reviews to your “digital portfolio” could be one of the easiest methods to increase sales!  

 

We’ll also share some strategies for reputation management, i.e. what to do when you get a bad review.

 

Tying this all together is that for 54% of respondents in the Bright Local survey, the next step taken by consumers who read a positive review is to visit the business’s website.  While creating a website cannot be considered easy by most of us, this seems to be the next logical step for businesses who do not yet have one.

 

 

In our course we’ll share with you the best tools on how to create a website, as well as give you some of the basics to get started in designing your own site.

 

The Need for a Small Business Online Marketing Course

While a vast amount of good information exists regarding the topics we’re going to cover in our course, few resources/websites have broken down the steps necessary to market a business from the perspective of a small business owner.  Even fewer have created their content in a systematic fashion in order to take small businesses from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible  We have sifted through all the information that isn’t applicable or practical for small businesses.  

 

Finally, we help you make the changes to your online presence in a hands-on fashion, considering your business’s unique circumstances.

 

If you can’t enlist our help in-person should you happen to live in Eastern Oregon, you can follow along with the articles, video, and audio presented on this site.

 

We’ll pick it up next time to discuss Why Google My Business is Crucial for Small Business Success.

 

In the meantime, please answer the question: What’s been your biggest challenge in marketing your small business online?  Leave a comment below and we will address your challenge in the course!

 

What to do Next?

If you are participating in this course formally, whether in-person or online, you’ll need to take the following steps before the next class:

  1. Sign-up for an account over at the Hubspot Academy.  Then, you’ll want to enroll in the Hubspot Inbound Marketing Course.
  2. Watch the Introduction as well as the first series of videos: Essentials of an Effective Inbound Strategy.
  3. Take the quiz under “Inbound Fundamentals.”  Review the videos and re-take the quiz until you score 100%.

 

Additional (Optional) Reading:

Forbes:  Is Online Marketing Really Necessary for Small Businesses?

The Balance: Top Digital Marketing Strategies for the Small Business