A couple of weeks ago I was sitting front and center at a presentation by Dan Kennedy at AWAI Bootcamp.
A few days ago I sent out an email with the subject line “Do I need Botox?”
One of my readers was not impressed.
You see, a little earlier one of my kids pointed out the eleven that appears on my forehead when I forget my sunglasses before a drive down to Albuquerque. He said it makes me look “mad”.
I have to say, it made me feel a little nuts… And made me wonder whether Botox would be in order.
Because I’m not worried about looking old. I’m a late bloomer and people usually guess that I’m younger than I am. But I don’t want to be one of those people with R.B.F. (resting bitch face).
As a copywriter, I’m always interested in what motivates people to buy different things. This was the first time I was even remotely interested in Botox, so I concluded that the fear of looking mad all the time was a bigger push than the fear of looking older. At least where Botox is concerned.
That’s when my reader sent me an email that ended with, “Get a grip. The aging process is not for sissies. It’s never too early to establish REAL self esteem.”
Have you ever noticed that it’s really hard to come up with a snappy comeback when someone accuses you of having low self esteem? I may have retorted, “Well, you know I was just kidding.”
But I wasn’t.
I, like millions of other women, have been obsessing over my wrinkles. We obsess, then buy something, obsess some more, and buy some more. Wanting to look young for as long as possible may very well be a sign of low self esteem. But it’s also a form of self-care.
I know, I really should get a grip. But I won’t. I’m a hot mess of insecurities, irrational phobias, obsessions, grudges and aching desires. And I’m the kind of person who will want to examine and discuss each passing feeling with excruciating detail.
If you don’t like it, don’t sit next to me on the bus.
“Getting a grip” – to me – means not talking about my feelings. If I’m laughing and emailing everyone about my problem areas, things are normal. If I can’t talk or write about my feelings (however irrational or misguided they may seem to others) then I’m really in trouble.
I love meeting famous copywriters in the hotel bar at AWAI’s annual Bootcamp.
But when I saw Ben Settle sitting there, drinking beer with his friends, I felt a surge of anger that I couldn’t ignore.
It was crazy. I’ve never met him in person and yet I’d been holding a grudge against him for months. Maybe more.
I don’t know if he realizes (especially since I was giving him the stink eye right off of the bat), but I am actually his ideal customer. I really get a kick out of writing emails to my list… and people like getting them. I get lots of compliments.
The problem is I don’t always get as many sales from those emails as I need.
(Before I go any further, I have a confession. I have no interest in getting “more hours”. My biggest ambition is to spend less time at my desk and still make more. Is that so wrong? I have three young children who need a lot of time and attention. If I can just figure out how to use my newsletter to make more money my life will improve in such a dramatic and profound way that it brings tears to my eyes every time I imagine it.)
That’s where Ben Settle enters the picture… he knows how to turn emails into income.
I’ve been getting Ben’s sometimes-more-than-daily emails for at least a year… maybe two. While a lot of small business owners fret about sending emails out too often (they’re afraid of “bombarding” their readers) Ben tells people to write emails much more often and make an offer every time so that you can make money.
He has done very well for himself sending out daily emails where he sells something. Rumor has it that he makes over a half a million dollars a year working fewer hours than I do. He shows people exactly HOW to do it in his newsletter, Email Players, which costs $97 per month.
Ben Settle appears to have the solution to the #1 problem in my life. What could I possibly have against him?
I’ll tell you what!
I was about to fork over $97 for his newsletter when one of his a female readers accused him of not being very welcoming to women, and in general, sounding like a male chauvinist. He said that he looked at his numbers, saw that most of his readers were men, and so he was going to write stuff that appealed to his readers and his buyers… which were men.
Even though I know that it makes perfect sense to look at your numbers and write stuff that appeals to your audience, I was still pissed. What about me? I was willing to pay him month after month, but now I felt overlooked, and underappreciated.
Just so you know, I can hold a grudge. Every time I saw a subject line from him like “How to pick up hot chicks with email” or “Why blonde chicks never get speeding tickets” my fury grew.
There was an email about an upcoming podcast episode titled “The strange (and amusing) parallels between psycho chicks and bad clients.” He and his guest were going to discuss “What copywriters should tell their woman to do when she nags and complains to him while he’s trying to work.”
First of all, that sentence makes it sound like ALL copywriters are men. Which means that I’m not included in the group. That copywriting is just a big old boys club with a giant “No Girls Allowed” sign.
Then there was: “Why entrepreneurs always attract batshit crazy chicks.”
Again, it just makes it sound like ALL entrepreneurs are men. It makes it sound like we live in a world where there are two categories of people; male entrepreneurs and the bat-shit crazy chicks who are attracted to them (… and they’re just sitting around dreaming of the day when they can nag and complain when the men try to work).
I couldn’t stop obsessing!
I see myself as an entrepreneur… would Ben Settle automatically lump me into the “batshit crazy chicks” category?
There was only one way to find out…
I moved my drink into my throwing hand and walked up to his bar stool. Rather than tell him what a big fan I was (which would have been true and polite) I told him that I didn’t read all of his emails and I thought he was deliberately trying to repel me from his list.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Every time I’m on the verge of buying, you annoy me with your sexist subject lines.”
Yup. Those were fightin’ words, and he and his friends stood up and formed a semi-circle around me.
I probably looked aggressive and bitchy, but I felt pretty nervous. I was expecting him to blow me off, embarrass me, or somehow put me into my place.
Instead, he smiled and said, “What specific subject lines piss you off?”
It was my chance to tell him what I really thought, to his face. But I found myself completely thrown off by the look of eager expectation on his face. It was so disarming, that I set my drink gently on the bar. I wouldn’t have to throw it in his ace after all.
Then I told him in as much detail as I could what was going through my mind when I got his emails, and telling him why they were turning me off and making me now buy. He continued to ask questions, and treat me like someone giving valuable feedback (rather than someone trying to start a fight.)
I said that I would go back to my room and show him the exact email that he sent that originally set me off.
But when I got to my computer, I couldn’t remember where the exact email was. Instead, I typed in “chicks” and got 13 emails from him, all with the word “chicks” in the subject line.
I sat down to write my “angry” email, but realized that I had already forgiven him… and was ready to buy his newsletter.
- He did something completely rare and unexpected: He stopped what he was doing to listen carefully to my complaint and actually hear what I had to say. All too often when people get in fights, all they do is try to prove that they are right and the other person is wrong. They’d rather unfriend each other, fire their clients, or they bottle it up for months rather than lay everything on the table and get past it.
- He didn’t try to tell me that I was wrong.
- He made it easy to get it off my chest by asking a lot of questions. Normally I find it really difficult to tell people about problems that I have with them. I clam up. This time I was able to say what I needed to say.
- He stayed calm. Why does that matter? It just let me know that he is successful enough that one complaint isn’t going to bother him.
- He did something that made me laugh and reminded me why I wanted to be his customer in the first place. As I was telling him off, rather than get upset he seemed pleased that he made me have a reaction, even if it was negative, which I thought was funny. The whole point of marketing is to get people to respond, and he was clearly processing everything through the “how are my readers responding?” filter. Even as I was telling him what I thought was wrong with him, I was still thinking that I want to be more like him.
- He made me feel important. He listened as if my complaint was actually valuable to him, because it gave him an opportunity to get even better.
The next time one of my customers complains or comes to me with a problem, I’m going to take a page from Ben’s book and do my best to stay calm, listen to the person and use the complaint as an opportunity to improve an area of my business and improve the relationship with that individual.
In many cases, people come up with problems and objections just before they’re ready to buy. If you handle the situation the right way, you can make the sale. (I ended up getting the subscription, and am checking my mailbox for the second issue right now).
How about you? Do you have any tricks for handling complaints? Tell me about them by sending a note at [email protected]
Have you ever tried to sell something to an engineer or a scientist?
It’s not impossible, they buy things every day. But the process of marketing to an engineer can be different.
That’s why I was so excited to meet Kevin Rokosh, the “engineer’s copywriter” and the author of Writing to Reach Engineers; the Top 7 strategies,(Which is available on his website, here). He specializes in writing business to business sales copy for other engineers.
He was generous enough to offer his insights into how to make marketing materials that appeal to engineers.
Mandy: What do companies need to understand when they are marketing to engineers?
Kevin: They need to understand the nature of engineers. We are problem solvers. And we like to solve problems on our own.
So your marketing needs to make it possible for your customers to learn about your products and services in such a way that they are coming up with solutions on their own, and moving toward an understanding of the problems that they are trying to solve, until he reaches a point where he realizes that he needs help. He’s going to have to buy something.
When you’re informing engineers about your products, you don’t want to make the sale too soon – because you can turn them off. Because most engineers don’t like dealing with sales people too soon, and if they get a phone call from a sales person before they’re ready it will be a problem.
Engineers are trained to solve problems, so you need to give them the tools and the information that they need to solve the problem.
Mandy: If they are so driven to solve problems by themselves, how can anyone make a sale?
Kevin: We live in a complex world, and eventually they’re going to reach a point where they need to buy something. It may be a part, or a piece of software.
Even someone who likes to do things on their own will realize that if it’s already done for you, it makes sense to get it.
Mandy: What specific marketing pieces will allow them to feel like they’re doing their research, and not just being sold?
Kevin: White papers work well, because they are very educational. You can use a white paper to inform people about a new technology, or talk about a problem and possible solutions.
There are sell sheets, which show features and specifications of certain parts. In many cases, engineers just need a sheet that will show me at a glance if the product meets my specifications so that they can make a materials list.
You can create webinars, which is kind of like taking a white paper and turning it into an online teaching session.
Mandy: What kind of language should you use?
Kevin: It shouldn’t be too technical, because busy people don’t have a lot of time to digest and pore over a document.
You don’t want sentences to be too long.
You don’t want huge blocks of text that will make it look hard to read.
The language that you want to use is what we call “business conversation” style. Imagine two engineers sitting in the cafeteria talking about their project. They’re not going to sound like textbooks. They’re going to be using everyday language, short phrases and sentence fragments.
So if you can write your materials in that same kind of language, it will make it more believable and it will stick better in the buyer’s mind.
Check out Kevin’s book, Writing to Reach Engineers; the Top Seven Strategies. You can get it on his website www.kevinrokosh.com.
To find out more about white papers, read my article, “White Papers are Simple to Understand When You Pick Your Favorite Flavor.”
Mandy: You send out an email every day, and recommend that others do that too. How do you keep your emails interesting?
Heather Robson is a copywriter and marketing consultant who specializes in content marketing, online sales copy, e-letter and email marketing.
Why is it important for businesses to use an email newsletter?
An e-newsletter lets you contact someone over and over again with a their permission. You become familiar. I’m sure most of your readers are probably familiar with the statistics that it takes 5 to 7 points of contact before somebody is willing to purchase from you. An e-letter is an easy, non-threatening way to generate those points of contact.
When you send an e-letter, you are building credibility; establishing your voice, your tone, and your personality; and setting up consistency, which develops trust. You’re giving away information, which creates a feeling of gratitude and appreciation in your reader. You’re doing things that help a person get to know you, like you, and trust you. They also start to feel loyal to you, which is a big deal.
E-letters are inexpensive to do, and email marketing has an unbelievable return on investment. When I say unbelievable, it actually is unbelievable. The DMA, the Direct Marketer’s Association, says that on average, people who do email marketing have about a 4300% return on investment, which is stupid crazy.
It’s very profitable. It really establishes a relationship with your target audience. It’s good not only for acquisitions but for retention marketing too. It’s an excellent way to keep in touch with your existing clients. Let them know what special offers you have just for them.
You’ve been doing this for a long time. Do you have any tips on how to do it well?
Sure. The first thing to do is really figure out the tone of your e-letters. Is it going to be helpful and approachable? Is it going to be cantankerous or contrarian? You want to get a really good feel on the tone of voice you’re using so that you approach your audience in a consistent way. That helps them really feel like they know you.
The next thing is to make sure you have a consistent way of delivering the information. Most of the people I write for want something action oriented. Our articles are very informative, but they also give the reader something they can actually do, which is going to theoretically improve their life, better their situation, or make them happier in some way.
You want to have clear goals at the onset. What do we want our readers to take away from whatever it is that we’re sending them? Once you have those things established, make sure you have a way of coming up with a fresh stream of topics.
With anything, you’ll have the initial rush of topics. Your first 25 or so will probably be pretty obvious, but then you want to have some ideas for digging a little bit deeper. What I do for that is I read as much as I can within my industry. Any time I read something, I try to come up with three articles ideas inspired from what I read. It might be that the piece left me with questions so one of those questions might be a topic for another day. It might be that everybody in the comments had a certain reaction and that reaction has led me to think, “Hey. Here’s another way of approaching this topic that I think would work better.” It might be that there was some little tangent in the article that didn’t really have to do with the article’s main point but was interesting enough that it could be its own article.
If you come up with three ideas for everything that you read, sooner or later you have a long list of things that you could write that would appeal to your target audience. You’re always ready to hit the ground running.
What questions should small business owners ask themselves before they launch a newsletter?
There are a couple of questions that I think are pretty important. The first one, of course, “Is this something I’m going to be able to stick with?”
Is this something that I’m going to be able to continually produce, week after week? Some newsletters are daily. Some are every other week. I don’t recommend necessarily less than that. Unless you’re doing a print newsletter, in which case you can do it once a month.
You want to make sure that you have a good list of topics that you’ll talk about and where you’ll get more topics so that you can continue to produce good content for your audience.
Another question that you want to ask yourself is, “Am I in a business where I have customers that come back to me again and again, or am I in a business where really I work with a customer one time and then they move on?” E-letters tend to work better as a retention tool. They can make a great acquisition tool, but where they really shine is in terms of retention. They make more sense for businesses that want to get a lot of repeat customers.
You mentioned that newsletters have a great return on investment. What are the things that people do to make sales with the newsletter?
The most important thing is to actually ask for sales occasionally. Some people are really good about sending out lots of useful information (or whatever kinds of things the newsletter promises to deliver). You need to follow through and send out that information as often as you said you’re going to send it out. Then you also want to occasionally ask people for a sale. If you’re sending out a weekly email article newsletter, maybe twice a month you actually send out a promotion that says this thing is happening and we’re offering this great deal. Give me a call and get signed up.
Here are two big mistakes that people make. Some people build an email list and then don’t email it at all. That’s a huge mistake. Other people build an email list and they either promote all the time or they engage all the time. They don’t have a blend of those two things.
Engagement is the content that you give. The value that you bring that you’re giving to your people for signing up. You definitely want to have e-letters that are dedicated to engagement. Then you also want to have some information or some mailings that are dedicated to promotion.
You’ll have to do some experiments and some trial-and-error to figure out your sweet spot. There is an engagement-to-promotion ratio. If you’re doing all one or all the other, then you’re not going to monetize the way that you were hoping to.
Do you have any other tips or suggestions for someone starting a newsletter?
Definitely make sure that you have some sort of method in place where your readers can actually engage. Not just read but also respond to what you’re sending out. They can ask you questions. They can send you complaints. They can make arguments. You want to have an email address or another method of contact where they can respond to what you’re saying. You want to do this because it helps you to gauge if you’re hitting the right mark. If your content is being well received. It’s also going to give you a lot of content ideas. Nick Osborne’s copy detective website has a lot of content that was based on the questions his readers were asking. When you give your readers a way to respond to you, you’ll get a lot of things that you can think, “Hey. I can turn that into a topic.”
It also gives you a way to give a shout out to your readers so you can be like, “Hey. Melissa in Los Alamos sent me this question. That’s a great question, Melissa.” Melissa feels special and everybody else on the list feels like, “Hey. This person really listens to the people that are reading.” That’s another good way to engage.
Thanks! How can people check you out on the Internet?
Get in touch with me on LinkedIn.
Want to find out about more cool ways to reach out to customers? Click here to read my interview with Tim Paige, called “Reach More People with a Podcast.”
Simple, because when you have an article about your business, people will click on your link. In the picture to the left, the spike in traffic came because the business owner got an article published in the paper.
This particular article did more than just drive traffic to his site (because, really, what good is traffic if nobody’s buying?). The day after the article came out a company that he has been wanting to work for called him and wanted to start an ongoing contract.
I’m a big believer of publishing articles, because they make things happen.
Contact me at 505-515-7001 or [email protected] to set up an appointment. Together we can create a article writing schedule or write an article about something that you’re doing right now.
Tim Paige has a podcast called ConversionCast, which he does for Leadpages. During the show, he interviews respected marketers who each share a tactic that they have used to increase their revenue, grow their lists, and scale up their businesses. Thank you for your time, Tim.
Tim: Absolutely. Thanks for having me here.
Mandy: Tell me a little bit about how you got started running a podcast for Leadpages.
Tim: Well way, way back in the day, I was a professional touring musician. I learned a lot about in-the-trenches marketing, but when my music career came to an end, I got back into my old mainstay of sales. I started to question if there was a way to scale that marketing on a bigger level, as opposed to a one-to-one kind of marketing going to a bigger group of people and reaching out further. I stumbled upon a podcast called Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn. I listened to it, and fell in love.
I realized that this is an amazing way to reach people—more than just on a local level—and just got obsessed with it. From there, I learned how to podcast. I started my first podcast, which was horrible. I started my second podcast, which was horrible. I’ve had several podcasts since then, but when I was connected with Clay, who is the CEO of Leadpages, he had a general vision for a podcast. I had some ideas to add to that. It turned into what is now ConversionCast and has over 150 episodes and this crazy cool thing that we’ve done.
Mandy: Why do you say podcasting is an amazing way to reach people? What makes podcasting special?
Tim: Well, there are definitely disadvantages, but what’s really special about podcasting is that it connects you to people on a personal level. Many people say that about blogging and about all these other mediums, but because podcasting is an audio medium, you can hear the tone of somebody’s voice. You can hear when there’s a moment that they say, “Wow, that’s really big.” You feel that.
Any time I’m at an event where somebody might have heard my podcast, they always feel like I am like a distant family member. They always feel like I’m somebody that they know on a personal level. They come up to me and reference something I talked about on a podcast no matter how long ago and say, “Oh, remember when you talked about this one thing? Oh my gosh, I totally related with that.” You get that with other mediums, but I think you get that so much more with podcasting. It’s that personal connection that makes it special. Of course you can transition people to other things, like webinars. You can sell your stuff. You can grow your list. All those things are great, but I feel like the personal connection that comes from a podcast is what makes it so much more special than a lot of other things.
Mandy: That’s great. As a writer, I always struggle when someone says something really neat or when they have a lot of emotion behind it, how do I capture that? It’s the hardest thing when their personality is really coming through, and then all of a sudden, it’s on paper.
Tim: Right. Exactly. It’s like the people that you can never tell their intention when they’re sending you a text message. You have to call them, otherwise you think that they want to stab you.
Mandy: Exactly. How did you come up with the name ConversionCast?
Tim: It was pretty easy for us. The biggest thing that we focus on is converting folks. I think a lot of people get conversion mixed up. They only associate it with growing a list or only associate it with getting somebody to buy, but conversion is really each step of the campaign. Each step of your customer’s buying process is a conversion. Getting them to click on your listing in Google, that’s a conversion. You converted them because they could have clicked on any link, but they clicked yours.
We really believe in the idea of everything being a conversion. Since our podcast focuses on a data-driven tactic to convert your potential customer into whatever the next step of your campaign is, we thought we had to have conversion in there. It’s a podcast, so ConversionCast. It’s semi-clever, and that’s really where it came from.
Mandy: There are really many ways to convert people.
Tim: Right. I think there are a lot of terms and buzzwords that people get really fixated on. Right now, it’s “funnel.” People are obsessed with the term funnel, but very few people who use it really understand what it means. They say, “Oh, I’m trying to build my funnel. I just finished it. It’s an opt-in page and a thank you page.” Well, that’s not really a funnel. That’s just an opt-in page and a thank you page. It’s the same thing with conversion. They say, “Oh, I just need to work on getting more conversions,” but more conversions of what? What are you trying to do? Are you trying to grow your list? Because that’s one focus. Are you trying to get them to buy? That’s another focus. Are you trying to get them to go to your website? That’s another focus.
Mandy: You really have an interesting way of thinking of conversions.
Tim: Right. It just means …
Mandy: Getting someone to move a little bit closer.
Tim: Right. You promote whatever the thing is that you want them to do at that moment. There are so many different things we could want people to do, right? If somebody shares your stuff, that’s a conversion, if you ask them to do it.
Mandy: Yeah, exactly. Do you have any tips for other podcasters who are thinking of good names? I’ve noticed that it’s for Leadpages, but you don’t say Leadpages in your name. Is there anything that people could think about when they’re coming up with a name for their own podcast?
Tim: Yeah. It’s really funny because I used to say, “Have your podcast name be clear about what it is that you talk about.” If you talk about how to lose weight then have your podcast be called The How to Lose Weight Show or something similar. I’ve always felt like it’s hard to tell what a podcast is about just by looking at the name or the picture sometimes. It’s really funny if you look at some of the really successful podcasts, it’s very unclear what the show is about. There are some, like Nerdist, where you get the sense it’s a show for people that like pop culture things, right? Nerdist. Okay. Then there are other ones, like The Moth. What the heck is The Moth about? Yet it’s consistently in the Top 5 of iTunes.
I think it really depends on your goals. If you have a show that’s focused on helping people accomplish an outcome—ours is to help them be more successful in their marketing—I think you should have something that’s very clear. If it’s an entertainment brand (for example, if you are marketing a business that sells pop culture memorabilia) then your podcast can be a little bit more fun and focused on some off-beat brand. That’s what I would tell people.
Mandy: Where do you find your guests?
Tim: Well now they come to us because we have an established brand, and we have the Leadpages name behind us. Initially, we just reached out to people that we felt would have a lot of value to offer. There is plenty of advice out there saying, “Find guests that have a big following, so that when you publish the episode, they can share your stuff.” The problem is a lot of the times, and this is a dirty little secret, a lot of the times the guests that have a big following are sharing the same stories on every single podcast they go on. It makes your stuff not unique.
We’ve got some of those high-profile people, but what we wanted to do is have people on our show that maybe you wouldn’t get access to otherwise or maybe you wouldn’t even know that you wanted to hear from. The people that were doing marketing for a $6 million a year mattress company. That person maybe is not the CEO. Maybe he’s not the founder. Maybe he’s just the head of marketing for that 40-person company. What is he or she doing to grow that business? Because that person is not out there promoting themselves, saying, “Hey, I teach you how to market your business.” They’re just doing marketing. That’s what they’re doing.
We thought that for us, that was really unique. We reached out to a bunch of companies that we thought were doing great things, that we knew were growing based on a lot of different factors. We said, “Hey, we’d love to have somebody on your marketing team come out and talk about one cool thing that they’re doing to grow your business.” That’s what makes our show special and cool is that we did get those guests that otherwise you wouldn’t really be able to get.
Whatever your podcast is about, I would encourage you to engage some people that have established audiences because it is nice to have them help you grow your podcast. More importantly, have people that are going to provide some unique value. Get those who can share some stories or insights that are tough to get or that maybe they’ve never shared before. If you can do that, it makes your show special. If you can find a way to have guests that are unique and special and bring something different and tell a great story, that can really differentiate your show.
Mandy: What can a podcast do for my business?
Tim: Oh, so much. When we started this podcast, we had two big focuses. We wanted to grow our list and have a different channel with which we could grow our list. At the time, we already had a big emailing list, but you can only engage that list so many times before you start to burn out the list and people unsubscribe. We wanted to grow a separate list that we could use a little bit differently than the main list. Then the other thing we wanted was “thought leadership.”
If you’re looking to have thought leadership in your space, a podcast is a great way to do it because then we can have some really amazing guests. For instance, we could have somebody from Kissmetrics come on our show. Well, that associates us with Kissmetrics. We’re having a conversation with the folks from Kissmetrics, talking shop, and we become associated with them. If you respect Kissmetrics, then our respect level is elevated. Plus we get to share insights and knowledge about what works.
We recently did a series where we had a whole bunch of folks from our team sharing what they’re doing at Leadpages to grow our business. That’s been a lot of fun. It creates that thought leadership in your space because you’re sharing that knowledge and that wisdom. They’re getting to know you a little bit more.
From the list-building side, we found that it was tougher to grow a list from a podcast than we thought. Many folks who have a podcast have learned that this is the case. It’s actually relatively tough to grow your list from a podcast, partially because of the experience of listening to a podcast. People are driving or walking down the street. So, as opposed to just saying, “Hey, join our list,” and giving them a lead magnet, we found that it was better to invite them to a webinar.
That works for us because we do webinars every single week. I’ve done 500 webinars in the last 2 years. We do a lot of webinars. We said, “Hey, in this episode, you learned all about a great tactic to help you convert your new email subscribers into paying customers. Obviously in order to do that, you have to have some email subscribers. Well this Thursday, I’m teaching a free webinar on 3 ways to quickly grow your email list without spending all your time in marketing. If you want to join me on that webinar, you can do this thing.”
Us doing that, the beauty of it is that somebody is already listening to the podcast. They already have a sense of me, who I am, my style, my personality, how I teach. Going to the webinar is just a nice next step up, where they say, “Awesome. Well now I can actually interact while you’re teaching. I can ask you questions. You can answer me. You can solve my specific problems.” Then from there I have the opportunity to sell them LeadPages and say, “Hey, this is something that you should try.” It’s a really nice bridge between somebody who just listens to your show over and over and over to bringing them onto your list to then asking them to buy.
Mandy: That makes a lot of sense, because if someone is listening to a podcast, they don’t necessarily want to get an email.
Tim: True, it depends. I wouldn’t say that they don’t want to get an email. It’s just that it’s a weird connection to make. If they’re accustomed to listening to you, then bringing them onto a webinar where they can continue to listen to you and maybe dive a little deeper into a topic that you talk about, feels so much smoother than getting them to join your email list and giving them a freebie. Sure, maybe they’re happy to join your email list, but then you’re requiring them to do something a little bit different and start reading as opposed to listening. It’s not that we weren’t growing our list. We grew a healthy email list from the podcast, but it’s when we started focusing on getting people from the podcast to the webinar. That’s when the podcast started really getting us huge results.
Mandy: What other results did ConversionCast get for Leadpages?
Tim: I think it connected us with other thought leaders that maybe we had connected with in some other way. For example, we had somebody on our show who maybe had a large brand where their audience are marketers or business owners or entrepreneurs. Those people would be a great affiliate partner for us as hosts of that show. If they promoted our stuff and they got a little affiliate cut, that would be a good thing for us because they have a big audience.
Build that partnership slowly. Say, “Hey, your audience listened to the podcast episode. Our audience loved your interaction. Why not become an affiliate partner and work on some other partnerships?”
We’ve developed some really amazing partnerships with heavy-hitters partially because we had that personal connection of having them on the podcast and then giving them some free promotion to our audience. That led to bigger things.
Mandy: During the first couple of weeks, ConversionCast shot up to the top of the charts on iTunes. How did that happen?
Tim: On day 1, we were the number 5 podcast on all of iTunes. A lot of people brag. They say, “Look, we were the number 1 genre or podcast. We were the number 1 marketing podcast, the number 1 health podcast.” We were really excited because we knew we would be number 1 in marketing, not out of cockiness but just because of the built-in audience of Leadpages. We were really aiming for those top charts. We were ahead of Dave Ramsey. We were ahead of NPR. We were ahead of CNN. We were ahead of these huge, huge companies in the rankings. Although that’s not a metric I’d normally care about, but in that launch state, we did care. We wanted to see how high we could go.
The reason why that happened . . . Well, there are a few reasons. One is that we really strategized the marketing campaign leading up to the podcast. We had a series of emails that were scheduled to go out to our already relatively large email list, the Leadpages list. We had blog posts that we had scheduled to publish on the Leadpages blog for that audience. We did some Facebook ads to promote the launch of the podcast. Then of course there was already that built-in brand loyalty of people who loved Leadpages. On top of that, we launched with a large number of episodes on the very first day. Then we did one new episode every single day.
We’re a weekly podcast now, but we did one every day at that point so that we could quickly ramp up our results and shoot up the rankings in iTunes. You get a big boost from being so high in the rankings. That was 2 1/2 years ago. Now those being up in “New and Noteworthy,” being high in the rankings, unless you’re the very, very top of the overall rankings, it doesn’t have the effect on your listeners that it once did. I don’t think it’s that important to rank as high, unless you can really leverage it and get way up to the top. I don’t think it’s that important to focus on your rankings.
Mandy: People could really benefit from having a strategy of rolling their podcast out.
Tim: Yeah. The thing is, many times marketers and entrepreneurs focus big time on the launch of their product. They put all this time and effort and energy into launching their product, whereas when you have a great marketing channel, like a podcast, you can treat that almost as a product, just because it’s free. You can treat that like a product and create an entire marketing campaign around the launch of your podcast. Getting people excited, promoting it, using the guests that you’ve already got scheduled for your show or what the content is or treating it like a TV show.
Here’s an example. I’m a huge comic book nerd. I love comic books, and I love all the properties associated with them. I love all the shows, all the movies. In all the shows, they will promote the next season of the show before the current season has even ended. People get fired up about this stuff a year before it ever comes out.
A great example, not a comic book property, but a book property, Game of Thrones. We’ve already seen a teaser for Game of Thrones next year, which is in July. Why did they do that? Well, because they know that if people get excited about something and anticipation builds they’re going to have a great big first episode. A podcast is a form of entertainment, and we need to treat it like an entertainment property and promote it as such.
Mandy: Why is it better to promote the event of your podcast rather than just put all that energy into promoting Leadpages?
Tim: Because it’s a different channel. Marketers have to be particularly smart about the way that they grow their business and grow their brand. It’s easy enough to just say, “Well why don’t you just send a bunch of Facebook ads to your sales page?” Well anybody who has ever done that knows that’s easier said than done. It takes a great deal of effort. It takes a lot of connection with our audience to get them to buy whatever it is that we’re selling. Sure, we can still send out a direct response piece and get results. Absolutely. We can do that, but there’s a whole segment of our audience that isn’t just going to buy. There’s a whole segment of our audience that isn’t just going to read a blog post. Maybe they need a different level of connection.
Maybe somebody hates reading blog posts, and they only really like audio. They listen to podcasts. You spend resources promoting your podcast as opposed to promoting your thing, which they’re not going to buy, or promoting your blog, which they probably aren’t going to read. This way you can get them to a medium that connects with them, and connects with them maybe on a different level than something else would. Maybe they won’t sit down and watch a YouTube video, but while they’re at the gym they’ll listen to a podcast. Then they’re connecting with your brand over and over and over again. You get the people that you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten because you promoted something that was free, something that added value to them without them having to spend any money. You built that connection first, then you can take them to the next step.
Mandy: Is there a way to target the podcast audience?
Tim: There is, yeah. However, you can’t just say, “I want to target everybody who listens to Nerdist” . . . or whatever. What you can do is things like using Facebook ads, you can target people who have liked the Facebook page of those podcasts or the businesses that they’re associated with or other similar things. Doing that, you can then build an audience using Facebook ads.
Mandy: Oh, interesting. How can you find out what your audience wants to hear about?
Tim: It’s just like anything in marketing. My favorite way is two-fold. One is to ask, right? Yes, many times people will tell you if you ask.
Mandy: It sounds so simple.
Tim: Right, right. That’s the problem. It actually is a little bit overly simple because a lot of times people will tell you what they think they want to know, but not really what they need to know. Just like anything in marketing, there’s a mix. When you’re creating content, you need to promote to them what they think that they want to know, but then actually give them what they need. But asking is part of it.
Another thing is just seeing how they respond to other either podcasts or blogs that are similar to what you’re considering. How do they respond to those things? Are there a ton of comments on posts around a topic that you were thinking about, or when you look at those other podcasts, are those the ones that fall flat? When you’re looking at other blogs, are those the ones that fall flat? Combining what people are telling you they want to hear with what you’re actually seeing them respond to in the market is the best way.
I guess the third way is try it, right? See what they respond to. If you put out a piece of content and people aren’t responding, then that’s all right. You know that that’s not something that they are particularly interested in.
Mandy: Can you give an example of what they say they want to know versus what they actually need to know?
Tim: Yeah, sure. I’ll relate this more specifically to a webinar, but it applies the same because we spend similar amounts of energy creating our webinars as we do for our podcasts. We recently had a situation where our audience kept telling us that it’s great that we teach them about list building on the webinar, but they also want to know what to do from there. Once you get them on the list, what’s next? I spent all this time creating this really valuable content piece that followed up on the webinar. We spent the first two thirds talking about list building and then the last third, we gave them our favorite follow-up sequence and walked them through how it worked and how we used it to get people to buy.
The minute we started doing that, our sales conversion rate on the webinar plummeted. We kept testing it, and we kept going. I said, “No, maybe it’s just because it’s a certain week or a certain time of year.” I think three months went by, where finally we switched that piece of content out and put back in a list building piece. Almost instantly, the results shot back up to what they were before. It’s really funny. People will tell you something that they think they want. At the end of the day, it’s either too overwhelming for them or it’s their idea of what they want, but when you tell it to them, it seems too much. They just go, “Forget it.” It scares them away.
Mandy: Can you recommend any equipment that people should get for a podcast?
Tim: Sure. The fun thing about podcasting is it doesn’t require a whole lot. For software, I use something called Adobe Audition. It’s not much. You can get the Creative Cloud, and I think it’s $19 a month. It’s not much. Or if you’re looking for something free, you don’t want to pay the $19 a month for the recording software, Audacity is completely free. It’s a nice recording software. It’s not my favorite, but it’s free and it’s pretty easy to use. Then for a microphone, I podcast from this insane setup, but it’s only because I’m also a voice actor. I need to have a crazy setup. People will hear about my setup and go, “Oh my gosh. Your mic is $1,000, and you have a custom-built vocal booth, and you have a $2,600 pre-amp, and all this stuff.” You do not need that for podcasting.
There’s one microphone that I recommend to everybody when they first start their podcast. It’s an Audio-Technica ATR2100. It’s like $50 on Amazon. It’s USB, plug and play. You literally plug it into your computer. It’s got a little desk stand. It’s got a little foam cover, so that the p’s don’t pop as much. It sounds great. In fact, I’ve compared it to a lot of the mics out there that people are using for podcasts, and I think the Audio-Technica sounds better. It’s the ATR2100.
Mandy: Okay. Thanks for that. In terms of promoting a podcast, what has worked for you? You’ve mentioned really leading up to the launch, but what else has worked for you to promote this?
Tim: Yeah. At that point, it all comes down to creating great content, being able to promote your stuff, and having your guests promote the show. Those are some of the biggest ways you can grow your podcast. The fun thing is that we found ours really grows organically because the content is great, because it’s valuable, because people talk about it. It gets shared. Our guests share it because they want to be associated with it. They want that additional leverage. Those are things that can be really effective—specifically, word of mouth and being visible.
ConversionCast is our podcast, but Leadpages is its own big brand. We’ve got all these things, but we do have links to the podcast. You can tell that we have a podcast. You can find it easily in our resources.
Mandy: Okay. You’ve mentioned a couple of ways to get more leads, but you also said that it’s not always the best. How do you use a podcast to get more leads?
Tim: The only way, beyond webinars obviously, that’s even remotely successful has been for every episode that’s actually publish you need to do what’s called “content upgrade.” Content upgrade is a specific lead magnet, the thing you give away to get people to opt in. It’s specific to the topic of the episode. Many people will create the 80-page guide on how to be healthy or whatever. They’ll put that on every episode, but you know what? Some episodes, that’s not going to make sense. Let’s say you do the 80-page guide to getting healthy, but your guest is an elite performance trainer for elite athletes. The people listening to that show are already healthy and are looking to take it to the next level. They’re not going to download your 80-page guide to getting healthy.
The way to be really effective with it is to offer a lead magnet that makes sense to the topic of the episode. In that case, if you have some elite performance trainer on, it could be like the elite performance checklist, the daily regimen of the so-and-so guest. Now that will be something that if somebody listens to that episode, there’s no reason they wouldn’t want to opt in for that.
Mandy: It sounds like a ton of work to have something connected to every single episode. Are there ways to do this without it being completely exhausting? Like you mentioned a guest that has a little something extra.
Tim: Sure. Well the problem is, asking a guest to create something tends to be a little bit of a faux pas. We’ve found there are two things can be really effective. Spend an extra three minutes after the interview and ask them one extra really special question. The only way for consumers to get that is to opt-in for it. That’s one way. Another way is a transcript. Have the episode transcribed and offer the transcription as an opt-in to people.
Mandy: That’s a good idea. You have another podcast, Getting Into Comics. Do you approach the two podcasts differently?
Tim: Very differently. Getting Into Comics is completely a hobby, just for fun. I’m not trying to grow lists. I’m not trying to get market authority. I’m not trying to generate revenue. I’m just passionate about comics. I’ve found that many people who would be interested in comic books don’t check them out because it’s so overwhelming the very first time, walking into a comic shop and saying, “What do I read?” I just wanted to help people who are thinking about checking out comics, give them a little resource to walk them through. “Hey, here’s where you should maybe check out. Here’s maybe the first book you should read,” or whatever. That’s why I did that. I approach it very differently in the sense that I record an episode, publish it, and walk away.
Mandy: Nice. Can you tell me about a big mistake you’ve made?
Tim: I could tell you about many. I think the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in podcasting was being too vague in my first, second, third, fourth, and fifth podcasts. Every time I thought I had been specific enough, it wasn’t. My first podcast was called The Awesome Podcast. It was about how to live an awesome life. That is vague as it gets. What the heck does that mean, and to who is it marketed to? What does it mean to live an awesome life? It was really vague. At that point, I was thinking about being a life coach, which I clearly decided against. I called the second podcast called Awesome Clarity, about how to get clear about what you want out of life. Also very vague, right?
I kept going like this. I felt like I was getting more specific, but I just kept finding new vague things that had a qualifier on them, like The Men’s Guide to Getting Clear. I didn’t create that, but that’s what I mean. Just saying that this is the marketing podcast for men, well, that’s still not specific. You need to be as specific as possible. What problem are you looking to help people solve, and who is going to get value out of that? That was the biggest mistake I think I made for a long time.
Mandy: In what ways have you re-purposed the material from your podcast?
Tim: Well, I think one thing that we’ve done recently that’s a lot of fun is we took our five most popular episodes and turned them into a lead magnet. We said, “Opt in here to download our five most popular episodes of ConversionCast.” It was a nice little way to grow our list, especially for people who hadn’t listened to the podcast or maybe only started listening recently. They could check out these old episodes without having to dig through iTunes and all that stuff. That was really cool. We also were in the midst of creating a series of podcast episodes that include the guests of our upcoming conference. We’ve got a conference that we’re doing in Minneapolis in October called Converted. We’ve had most of them on, but we’re going to have many of the speakers on the podcast and release it as a series. Then people can opt in to download that.
Of course then not only do they get these great episodes with great content, but it also gets them more excited for our upcoming event. Maybe it sells tickets, or if it doesn’t sell tickets and people are already planning on going, then it just gets them more excited and prepares them for what we’re doing.
Mandy: If someone wanted to get a job podcasting for a company, like you do, where should they start?
Tim: I wish I had a good answer to that. I was referred to this from somebody, whom I had a podcast with at the time, who had a lot of influence. I’ve had a few people ask me about this. What I would say is that if you already know how to podcast, you’ve already got some chops, and you can tell a great story, and you also have a marketing mind, then reach out to a company that clearly isn’t using the medium but is doing some marketing. Reach out to a company that maybe has some Facebook ad campaigns. Maybe you can tell that they’re doing some list building. Reach out to them and just let them know what you’re all about.
Talk to them about some of the benefits or about what podcasting can do for them. Let them know that you would love to start a podcast for them and maybe even offer to create a couple of test run episodes to show them what you could do. They wouldn’t get published or anything, but you could just create a couple of episodes to show them what you can do and then draft up a campaign to actually promote that podcast. Doing that can show them that it’s more than just, “I make episodes and talk into a microphone.” You can show them that it’s a valuable asset to their business and pitch it as something that you could provide for them.
Mandy: You’ve almost just answered my last question, and that is if someone wanted to convince their current employer or their client to use a podcast, what should they say?
Tim: That’s it. That’s exactly what I would do.
Mandy: Great. Well is there anything else that you want to let me know about podcasting?
Tim: That if it’s something that you believe you would love doing, you should do it. If you believe you would hate doing it, do not do it just because you’ve heard that you should podcast and there are benefits to it. It really is a medium that you have to love. It can be incredibly frustrating, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. If you feel like it’s something you would love doing, you should do it.
Mandy: Thanks a lot. Just let us know before we go, where do people go to see ConversionCast?
Tim: ConversionCast.com or right on iTunes or Stitcher. We are available on all of them.
Mandy: All right. Thanks, Tim.
Tim: Thank you.
Podcasts are a great way to engage with your audience. So are videos. Click here to find out how to get more website engagement using simple videos.
By Mandy Marksteiner
Tell me a little about your business and how you work with clients
For the past seventeen years I’ve been working as a freelancer. My business, Cybernetic Media, focuses on sales video development. I make professional looking video presentations in various styles to promote products and services. That’s kind of in my little niche as far as development goes. I’m located in Canada, but the bulk of my clients are in the United States or elsewhere.
Small businesses are catching on to the fact that video makes a huge difference, when they’re trying to get people to come to their websites and buy. It can also be intimidating. Where is the best place to get started if you’re a small business?
There’s all kinds of approaches you can take to getting started in video.
YouTube makes it really easy. A lot of people are just turning on their webcam and recording themselves. That’s fine. That may be a good way to test the waters and get your feet wet.
What are some of the benefits to using a sales video?
The beauty of video is that your videos can be out there marketing for you twenty four seven.
A company who may rely on either themselves or a sales team to be out there doing the active marketing, can at the very least cut down the amount of effort required by their sales team.
Even if somebody’s going door to door or business to business pitching, they can say, “Look, you know, you want all these questions answered? Just go to the video that we have on our website. Just go to our YouTube channel,” or something like that. The video does the telling and selling. I find it very exciting because it can boost the image of any company no matter how big or small.
Who do you work for?
I cater to the online marketing industry for the most part. Those people have pretty high expectations for quality because they’re trying to generate interest and sales for a particular product or service.
What would make a video look professional? What are some of the qualities?
The main difference between an amateur production and a professional production would be the subtle speed of the animation and transitions. An experienced production studio understands how to create flow that’s going to both entertain and inspire the viewer, perhaps to take action to buy something or at least to sit there and watch the video through it’s entirety to get the full message. I think that’s the key.
Anybody who has PowerPoint or any kind of slideshow program can actually make a video production or a presentation. It’s just that when you’re clicking your arrow button and the whole screen is static from slide to slide, that’s not really so much a video as much as a slideshow. The difference between a slideshow and a video presentation would be you just don’t notice that sudden transition. There’s all kinds of moving parts.
The video’s that I like to produce, and the ones that my clients request have full motion text effects and various elements like stock footage, images, nice quality photos, and very nice transitions that produce this really nice overall experience for the viewers. Most people can quickly detect an amateur production compared to professional.
What do you do to ensure that your clients’ projects are successful?
I walk people through a three step process so that everything falls into place.
Step one. I make sure that they have a good written script that has a nice flow and explains the message clearly and effectively.
Step two is the audio production. Typically we find a professional voice talent. Sometimes a client will have a good quality microphone and they want to do the recording. That’s fine. But for the most part, we hire professional voice talent.
You have to pay attention to things like the quality of your audio being recorded and background noise. Audio alone can make or break the quality of a nice video production.
During step three, we go into the actual animation production phase.
You aid that the quality script is the most important. Where do your clients usually get their scripts?
A lot of my clients write the scripts themselves. They know their message, because if they’ve been eating and sleeping this particular business or product or weeks, months, or years, then they know what they want to say.
I find it’s always good to at least consult with a professional writer and have them review it, just to make sure it’s exactly the way it needs to be. Because once the voice is recorded, if changes need to be made, that will be an added expense because the voice has to be hired again to do the change. Then, if we get to the video production stage and a change needs to be made, it can be costly.
What results have you gotten for your customers? Can you brag?
Yeah, I can brag a little bit. I can’t brag a lot, because the reality is a lot of my clients are very tight lipped in the online marketing field. They don’t always give me numbers or come back saying, “Man, I just generated X number of dollars in the last few months mainly because of your video.”
Although, I did have one client do that once. I had one client who set up an online marketing program. The focal point of the entire program was this video. It was on the home page. It was one of the earlier videos I did for this client. I know for a fact that his program generated over four million dollars in a year.
Of course, he came back for another video for another program. That’s really how I know what works, is they keep coming back. They don’t necessarily come back and say, “Hey, that video works so good I ” but I know it did because they wouldn’t be coming back for another one if it didn’t. It’s a matter of getting a really effective video, doing the telling and selling, and basically putting your marketing on auto-pilot. That’s what my clients are doing.
What else can you use video for?
Video’s great for anything, because it captures attention, especially on social media.
If you notice, on Facebook, when you scrolling down, videos automatically play. The content that ultimately grabs the attention is video. If I’m scrolling through oodles of Facebook stuff and I see a video start to play, that’s where I stop and I watch.
I heard that Facebook rewards you for using videos. If you post a video, they’ll show it to more people.
That’s right. I’ve heard similar things. I don’t know the exact numbers. Of course, they probably don’t release their exact numbers. It’s probably pretty secretive.
It’s true. If Facebook knows that if people see a video, they’re going to stop on that page longer, or they’ll be more likely to click on somebody’s Facebook ad it will be ultimately better for Facebook.
Why is video so popular?
Video is easy to consume. Even our smartphones can now display it when we’re on the go. Five or ten years ago, that was absolutely ridiculous to think about. The big companies are pushing video, I think, because it keeps your eyes on them and what they’re doing more. It’s a very effective and cost effective medium to be focused on.
Video is massive. Years ago I had a bit of a fear that maybe it would start to fizzle out a bit. Even though it’s become easier for people to create video content, the popularity is just booming, continuing to grow. If you build a website and you don’t have a video on it, you’re at a great disadvantage.
What can video do for your search engine ranking?
If you upload a video to YouTube, you’re automatically now on the world’s second largest search engine. It’s just a matter of playing with the key words to see if you can get it to rank in a decent spot.
The world of search engine optimization is just brutal these days because there’s so much content out there. Video gives you that leg up, especially through things like YouTube and Vimeo, especially when you may struggle with getting ranked otherwise. Yeah, it’s essential. I can easily say that because I make a living making videos. It’s a reality.
If you put a video on YouTube and then you embed it on your website, when somebody searches for those keywords, you do have a good shot of appearing. Google owns YouTube, and they’re giving videos preference. You’ll notice most times when you do a Google search, you’ll see maybe one, two, three videos in the top section of each page result. That’s just something that didn’t happen a number of years ago.
Can you give me a few examples of ways that you can use videos to sell? You know, different approaches you can take?
Yeah. A number of my clients have a new product that might come out. They want a video that focuses on promoting that product. A lot of the videos that I’m referring to, they’re essentially infomercials.
A lot of my clients have a business opportunity and they make videos to explain the perhaps complicated way that you get compensated for that particular company. There’s videos for that, to make it easier to understand the concept. They’re very visual, very explanatory. Some people call them explainer videos.
There are teaser videos, which are basically short thirty-second to two-minute productions that are designed to build excitement about a particular company or product, sort of like really quick introduction.
Like a movie trailer?
Yeah, a movie trailer type production. Those are very popular. What a lot of clients will do, is they’ll come and they’ll want a teaser video because we can produce that fairly quickly because it’s a minute or less. Then, they’ll want a video for promoting a product that they have, and maybe one for their business opportunity. These videos can then be used in an auto responder program or sequence. Or they can be just in a sequence on the website itself. Some websites have a video on every page.
Another style of video that I’ve been producing in the last few years is more of a tutorial type video. They’re basically tutorial videos explaining how to do something.
We can do pretty well any type of video that’s required. Basically, it’s just a matter of somebody thinking of, “How can video benefit their business,” if they’re not already using it.
Where can people go to see samples of your work?
They can go to SalesVideos.com. I’ve got a section for custom videos and I have a section for generic videos.
Tell me more about each type of video.
A number of years ago, I started making some generic videos. Those sometimes apply to the people who may have a very low budget. Those are essentially already created. There’s only a handful there. I’m trying to keep producing more every year.
The custom video section, you’ll see a playlist in there from the YouTube channel and our link to the YouTube channel. You can check out those. The other thing I want to say is, if there is a type of video that you want to have created and there is not an example like that on the site, just let me know. If you have an idea, send me the link to something similar. I really haven’t come across a style or approach that we can’t model.
David Doggett can be reached at www.salesvideos.com or www.davedoggett.com.
If you would like to get started with video, let me know. I will brainstorm ideas for you, write the script and work with Cybernetic Media, or another video production company within your budget, to complete the project. Send me a note at [email protected] to schedule an appointment.
Click here to read a testimonial from someone who received a Content Marketing Consultation.
By Mandy Marksteiner
Susanna Perkins is an online copywriter who has a super useful website called WordPressBuildingBlocks.com where she teaches a simple step-by-step system for building a website using WordPress.
Mandy: How did you get started building websites with WordPress?
Susanna: I’ve been building websites since the mid-1990s. I started out actually hand coding HTML and had some success there. Then when websites got to be really, really heavy on the programming I stopped doing it.
Around 2006 I discovered WordPress and that to me was the solution to everything because it allowed me to start building websites without having to program. There are a lot of people who need websites. They need an online presence, but they’re not particularly technical themselves.
If you can create a document in Word or Google Docs you can use WordPress. Now getting it set up is a little different, but as far as just day to day use it’s really, really simple for the business owner.
Mandy: Many business owners need a website and an online presence. There are so many options and there are so many ways of doing it. Why would someone choose to use WordPress?
Susanna: The benefit to WordPress for a business owner is once it’s all set up and running you can add or change content pretty easily.
Mandy: What types of businesses have you worked with?
Susanna: Well, I’ve worked with all different types of businesses. I built a site for a Pilates studio which is very much a local business. I’ve built sites for other freelancers. I’ve built sites for somebody who does tours in Panama. It’s a pretty wide variety of clients that I’ve been privileged to work with.
Mandy: When someone’s going to start a WordPress site, what can they do to make the process easy?
Susanna: From my perspective as the person who’s building the site, it’s really important for the business owner to have a clear idea of what they want the site to do for them. The business owner should know what the purpose is for each page on the site and for the site as a whole. Is it to get leads? Is it to actually make sales? Is it to get people to walk in the door of their shop? It’s great to think, “I need a website,” but what do you want that website to do for you?
Mandy: Can you give some examples of page purposes?
Susanna: There are lots of different reasons to have a website. A local business, like the Pilates studio I mentioned, wants to generate interest in her studio. She wants to extend the studio’s reach and use it for just general public awareness that she’s there, but she also wants to get people in the door. She wants people to sign up for classes, and she wants her regular customers to be able to do things like check class schedules and make appointments for personal lessons or different types of work through the website rather than having to call and talk to somebody. Those are pretty common types of things that a local business might want.
Now somebody who’s a freelancer has very different because they don’t generally want people walking in their door. They want people to realize, “Here’s somebody who can help me solve this particular problem in my business and it doesn’t matter where they’re located.” Geography isn’t the issue there. If you’re a freelancer you probably want to use your website to generate leads.
Mandy: When I talk to business owners I get the sense that sometimes just setting up the website seems like an insurmountable hurdle. How can people make it easier to get over this hurdle in your opinion?
Susanna: You know, it’s kind of like anything else. At some point you just have to bite the bullet and start doing it. Like so many other things that seem like overwhelming obstacles, if you take it a step at a time, then with each step you take the next step becomes clear.
Mandy: Yes. That’s what’s so cool about your website, WordPress Building Blocks. It seems like you’ve broken it down into a step by step system. How did you come up with the Building Blocks idea?
Susanna: I love houses and buildings and architecture so I use this analogy throughout the site of comparing your WordPress site to building a house. It’s an easy analogy for people to understand and something that we can all relate to. Every house has to sit on a piece of land. That’s your domain name and where you host the site. You need a foundation — that’s WordPress.
Then different elements of home building I compare to different elements within WordPress. I think that really works with people.
Mandy: When you go to your WordPress site, people can sign up and receive a series of training emails from you. What can they expect?
Susanna: It’s a seven-part series. It’s completely free. You get one email a day that gives you a high level view of that particular part of the process of building the website. For example, the first one is about the plot of land, continuing the house analogy. Day two is about the foundation, day three is framing and day four is about the roof. Your domain name and hosting is the land the structure sits on, and then the foundation is WordPress. The roof is security which is plugins. Step by step we’re building this house which is synonymous with building the WordPress website. You get seven of those and then periodically after that I send out additional emails. I don’t have any set schedule for that.
Mandy: Visiting your site and signing up for that email is a really good way to just get your mind around the process of creating a WordPress site. Is there anything else that people should do to prepare themselves for getting a WordPress site?
Susanna: Think really carefully about what you want the site to do for you. Then after you’ve done that, then you need to start gathering your materials. You’re definitely going to need some imagery on the site. You’re going to need a logo. You’re going to need … Whatever branding you already have should be carried over to the site. If you have a business and your branding uses the colors red, white, and blue then that should carry over to the website. You don’t want the website to be pink and purple because that’ll just confuse people. If you don’t have that kind of branding already established, then this is probably a good time to really think about it and figure out the face that you want your business to present to the world because that’s what your visual branding is.
Mandy: How important is the logo itself? If someone doesn’t have a logo, do you think it’s worth it to get it now, or just maybe move forward with the website and then get the logo done later?
Susanna: Well, I guess it depends on what kind of business you have. You don’t need to have a logo to have a good, attractive, and effective WordPress site, but it’s the kind of visual element that really helps because people start to identify with that logo. When they see it on the page they recognize, “Okay, here’s where I am and this is where I want to be.” It’s a good visual clue that you’re in the right place as a site visitor, but you don’t have to have it right at the get go. You can add it later.
Mandy: Do you have any other words of advice for someone that’s going to start a new website, WordPress or otherwise?
Susanna: Like any other construction, be prepared for it to take twice as long as you think it’s going to take.
A lot of that is because things come up. For example, if I’m building a site for you, I try to collect all the materials that I’m going to need from you before I even start. I would ask you to give me your logo and any other images. We discuss colors and other visual elements.
As I’m working along, invariably questions come up. If I ask you a question and you take two weeks to respond to me, well that’s two weeks when I’m stuck and not able to be working on your site. You need to be prepared to respond quickly to any questions or issues that might come up, and to make decisions.
On the other hand, if there’s a decision you have to make while the process is going on, you shouldn’t feel compelled to make a snap decision which you might regret later. Take your time with it but be prepared to move on it fairly quickly so as not to hold the process up.
Mandy: You want to be as efficient as possible but you don’t necessarily want to be in such a rush that you make a mistake.
Susanna: Exactly. Then besides the visual aspects of the site, you’ve got content and so you need to decide ahead of time who’s going to create that content for you. For the most important pages on the site, the homepage, the about page, and sales pages, you’ll want to either put a lot of time into them yourself or hire a professional to do for you. Because those are the pages that are going to get the most traffic. Those are the pages that are going to get the most attention. Those are the pages that your site visitors are really going to rely on to get a good sense of who you are.
Those pages are the pages on your website that help you to let the site visitor know, “This is who I am. This what my business is about. This is the kind of relationship that you can expect if you want to do business with me.” Those are really important pages. My sense is that unless you’re already a skilled copywriter yourself, it’s a really good idea to let a professional write those for you.
Mandy: A lot of people want to do it themselves but they struggle with it. It’s so much easier for them to sit back and relax and talk about their business but then actually to sit down and write down what they want to say. They can do a beautiful job explaining their business out loud but at that point a copywriter can capture that for them often better than they can do it themselves. It’s hard to write about yourself, so a copywriter can help you with that.
If someone chooses not to hire a copywriter, what can they do to be more successful?
Susanna: Study sites that you like, preferably sites that are in your same market, your same niche, whatever industry or business you’re in. Really study them and see what they’ve done and see what you think works well for them and what doesn’t and then try to write yours to take advantage of the best that you’ve seen. Now that doesn’t mean that you take the same sentences and paragraphs that they’ve used because that’s totally wrong, but to just see how they structure things, see how they present themselves just so that you know if this works for somebody else then the chances are good that something similar would work for me.
Mandy: When it comes to websites, there is a huge range in prices. How can someone make a logical decision that makes sense for their business money-wise about how to make a budget for their website?
Susanna: Again, ask yourself what’s the purpose of the website? Because it’s easier to figure out a return on investment and to justify the price you’re paying when you’re making direct sales because that’s something you can measure. It’s harder to measure it when you’re looking for leads or just for general letting the world know that you’re there type of website. I would say especially for a small business, because small businesses are always struggling with their budgets, try to get the biggest bang for your buck. Try to get the most you can for what you can afford to pay. I don’t really have any advice on how to do that.
Mandy: That’s okay. I want business owners to have some control over what they’re going to pay me. Of course there’s a lot of web designers they can charge what they want and they have the right to do that, but a business owner needs to decide what their budget is. Know first of all what can you afford to pay, and then once you know how much you can afford, how they can get the most out of that money.
Susanna: Right. That’s why I offer some bottom end packages where I say, “Okay, for $249 I’ll set up WordPress for you, I’ll build you these pages, I’ll install so many widgets.” I specify exactly what I’ll do. I’m not promising them a turnkey “this will be everything you ever dreamed of” website for $249.
Mandy: Yeah, that would be unreasonable!
Susanna: Right. I’m giving them the basic that they can get started with for that price. Then it goes up incrementally. For so much more, then I provide these other specific things for you. Then of course we get into completely custom work where they tell me what they want and I figure out what it’s going to involve and I quote them a price for it. Those can go up into several thousand dollars depending on what they need and what they want.
The whole process of setting up a site makes a lot more sense if you decide ahead of time what you can afford to pay, based on where they’re at, and then understanding what your goals are, and then having the materials together. Once they have all those things then they can make a more informed decision on what to get. Susanna Perkins and I are working together to create websites for small business owners, freelancers and other organizations. For more information contact Mandy Marksteiner at 505-515-7001 or [email protected].
Visit Susanna’s website at www.WPBuildingBlocks.com.
Click here to see samples of websites where I wrote the copy.