A successful online business will have a few things in common, but first, here are a couple of concepts you really need to be clear on.
- You can build the very best website on the planet, but unless people can find it, you won’t sell a thing.
- You can get hundreds, even thousands of visitors to your site every day, but unless you are offering what they are looking for, you won’t sell a thing.
Both of these concepts are what search engine optimization is all about. Getting found for exactly the phrase (or product/service) that your potential customer is looking for.
The marriage of search engine optimization and online marketing techniques is what this article hopes to clarify for you. You see, building an effective business utilizing online marketing techniques takes more than just coding web pages.
It takes a plan. It takes a deep understanding of who you are talking to and what language they use. It takes an automated sales funnel. It takes an automated follow up system. And it takes optimizing each page of your website for the keywords they are already using to find a solution their business pain.
Let’s break down the essential elements of a successful online business plan.
Defining Who You Want To Talk To
This step isn’t as simple as it sounds. The knee-jerk answer is “anyone who wants to learn Real Estate Investment Strategies” or “anyone who needs a blue widget”, but that doesn’t really tell you anything about who you are talking to.
It doesn’t tell you their current business or personal pain. It doesn’t tell you why they are online looking for a solution. It doesn’t explain what the solution for them would look like.
You need to spend a little time really getting specific here. You want to define your ideal audience. Your perfect prospect. Your target market.
You need to know exactly what they are looking for and why. You need to know what motivates them, what scares them, and what will inspire them.
Understanding Their Language
If your ideal audience is a real estate professional looking to increase their worth (or bottom line), then you will need to use their “language” in your sales copy, keywords and content. This will include professional terms unique to all real estate professionals (please note, I will be using Real Estate Investing as a sample throughout this document, just replace with whatever term makes sense for your business).
However, if your target market is someone who don’t know anything about real estate investing, but wants to get positioned to profit from an upturn in the housing market, then your “language” can NOT include terms only a broker would know.
This concept translates heavily into what keywords you target. If “John Q Public” with no real estate experience is your target audience, then you can’t optimize for keywords like “short sale buy strategies”, because John Q Public doesn’t know what that means.
He is more likely to be searching for terms like “buying and selling houses quickly” or “profit on flipping houses”. Remember, you are going to have to educate your clients. But first, they have to find you.
Optimizing On The Right Keywords
The obvious keyword choices are often the wrong keyword choices. Remember, you are asking to speak to someone who doesn’t know what you know, yet. He doesn’t even know what to ask at the search engine. He will ask in his “language”, so be sure you are optimizing on the words he is using at the search engines.
Think a little outside the box when doing your keyword research to ensure you are optimizing for words he will be looking for. Be sure to include common derivations. To get a head start on this, ask a friend who doesn’t know anything at all about your business what they would type in the search engines to find “the solution you provide”. Careful you don’t put words in their mouth during this exercise.
Injecting Yourself Into The Conversation
Once you know who your target market is and what “pain” he is trying to resolve, you can inject yourself into the conversation. Remember, there is a sales “process” going on here. Each of your prospects first identifies their pain, starts looking for a solution, compares available options and then purchases.
Your part of the conversation has to make sense to them and match up with where they are in the buying process. Are they still identifying their pain? Do they understand what they need? Are they ready to compare options?
The Sales Funnel System
Each online business should have a sales funnel system in place. Like a kitchen funnel, you pour (a whole lot of) something in the top, and it flows out the smaller opening at the bottom.
The top of the funnel is the ethical bribe. It’s your free offer to everyone that wants or needs it. In other words, it’s what you exchange for their name and email address. It’s the start of your automated sequence. (Note: This part does require an autoresponder. An autoresponder is a service that allows you to insert a series of messages into a “list” or “campaign” that will be delivered on a programmed time table. I suggest and use AWeber myself, but any autoreponder service should work. You can learn more about the concept in an article I did titled Marketing Method: Follow Up.)
The middle of the funnel are the qualifiers, testimonials and other automated techniques used to let those who aren’t looking for what you offer, off the hook. (Remember, if you sell something to someone that didn’t need it, your “return rate” goes way up.)
The smallest part of the funnel represents the actual conversion, the sale.
The Opt In Form
The top of your sales funnel is the “Opt In” form to get a free guide or whitepaper. Free software also works well. An audio or webinar replay might also be something worthwhile. Just remember to be offering value. This is where your automation starts. Until they provide their name and email address so you can follow up with them over time, nothing happens.
Critique and Notes:
- Your ethical bribe should be above the fold and attention grabbing (above the fold means visible without scrolling the web page).
- There should be a stated benefit that resonates with your target market. Explain how they would benefit, why they need it, and what to do to get it.
- Never assume anyone knows how to get the guide. Your form should explain what they need to do in very clear language. The more you direct them, the more they will take the action you want.
- Any graphic of an ebook should shouldn’t be cheesy. Remember, you want to appear professional. Spend a few bucks and get an eCover designed that matches your content if you are offering an ebook (for example). Also, if what you are offering is training which is video driven, a CD version of the image might do better.
- Prepare to test and track what is working.
The Automation Part Of The Sales Funnel
Assuming the first part went well, a prospect has traded their name and email address for your ethical bribe. This is really good news since it means they just gave you permission to market to them. It’s called Permission Based Marketing and is the single most effective way to make money online. Here are some ideas to get you rolling.
Each message in your “list” or marketing campaign will have a specific function. Each will walk your prospect one step closer to the result you want. Some will opt-out which is their way of saying, nope, this wasn’t what I had in mind.
Each message should be short and direct them to take the action you want them to take to follow the designed sequence that represents your ideal “presentation”. In other words, message one should state a benefit and then direct them to read the content at the “Pre-Sell Page”.
Message 2 should be delivered the next day, and should offer another benefit, perhaps a testimonial, and then direct them to read the content at the “Sign up” page.
Message 3 should be delivered 1 to 2 days later and should include another strong testimonial, another call to action and offer a money back guarantee. Show them you are taking the risk out of signing up. Direct them back to the “Sign up” page.
Message 4 should be delivered 1 to 2 days later, and should focus on what is called an apples to oranges comparison. Show the benefits and cost of your program and a much more expensive approach using the school of hard knocks (for example).
Each subsequent message should always include a link to the strongest call to action page in your sales funnel as the link listed under your signature, even if the message is just delivering news, latest posts, or testimonials.
This permission based marketing method accounts for a large portion of your sales. Use this wisely.
The Pre-Sell Page
This page should contain images which break up the text and make the entire page easier to read. Bolding and alternating rows make the bullet points stand out as well. This page’s purpose is to get them ready to see the price. This is especially true when your price tag is high. You really need to avoid that sticker shock with good sales copy, strong bullet points and a detailed set of benefits.
Critique and Notes:
- Add more sub-headings so those that “scan” a webpage to see if it’s applicable to them, will be able to grasp the jist. These sub-headings need to tell the “story” in miniature. If the sub-headings connect with the reader, they will read the parts in between.
- Your bullet points should be benefits, not features. A benefit connects with the reader, a feature doesn’t. As an example… you might list “No Down Payment” as a benefit. However, that’s a feature. A benefit OF no down payment is “not having to take money out of your wallet to get started”… which your reader can relate to better.
- Add more social proof and testimonials. You should have at least three (more is better) on the page. Insert specific testimonials near the text that highlights what they are happist about
- If you use a table that compares other products/services/programs to your own, a little visual “que” might be in order. For example, where the two items are comparable, add a graphic of a “dash”. Where theirs is less or worse, add a red “X” in their column and a green “check” in your column. These visual que’s reinforce the message subconsciously.
- Make your call to action strong. People will respond if you tell them what to do. Tell them to click the “Join Now” button and complete the form on the next page (for example). If you don’t ask for what you want, they won’t do it.
The Join Now or Sign Up Page
The next web segment of your sales funnel is the Sign Up page, and represents the action you wanted them to take all along. As such, this page needs to really “close the deal”. You can’t afford to back down or do this page second rate. The content on this page will account for 21% of the lost sales, of those that won’t commit.
Although this is an action page, you still have to remind them why they thought it was a good idea. Be prepared to recap each of your strongest selling points.
Critique and Notes:
- For some of you, this the first time they see the “price” so there might be some sticker shock. To reduce that, recap the money they will spend in real world dollars if they attempt to do this on their own.
- Your bullet points should not be single line entries that do not “connect the dots” for readers. For example, an entry that says “Forms/Documents For You” – doesn’t tell the reader what those forms are, why they are important, what it would cost to have them done and what the benefit is having your company provide them. You should recap in bold the main point, but provide the details that those that aren’t scanning require.
- Make sure you don’t tell them to take 20% off the price, but not why. This is an opportunity for you to create a little scarcity. Tell them if they commit in the next 24 hours, you will discount it 20%, otherwise, they pay full price. You can structure the offer to reward the fast action takes, those that make quick decisions because that represents the type of person you are looking to work with. (Please note: The scarcity must be real. If you say the price only lasts 24 hours, take it DOWN in 24 hours. If they come back the next day (or later) and the note is still there, you have lost all credibility with them. It’s over.)
- Throughout your text content (prior to the payment buttons), provide links that will jump them to the payment buttons. Two or three should do it. Use your primary keywords in the link… something like “Get Started With Your Real Estate Mentor Today” or “Let’s Partner Up Right Now” or “I’m Ready To Partner With A Real Estate Mentor Now”. These links also serve to tell Google what you content is about through the hyperlinks (anchor text). This helps.
Your target market should drive the keywords you use and optimize for. What are THEY looking for. Yes, it’s cool to have a keyword that gets a gazillion searches a day, but if everyone that clicks the link is looking for something else, it’s pointless, drives any PPC campaigns into the dirt and frustrates both you and the readers.
To clarify with an example. Let’s say you sell golf clubs. You could optimize for the word “Golf”, but you would be getting visitors who were looking for golf-swing videos, golf shoes and golf balls. You could optimize for the keyword “golf clubs”, and your focus would be more narrow. This means less searches, but better targeting. It might only yield a hand full of people per day, but each one would be looking for exactly what you are offering, and that is worth it’s weight in gold.
Now, supposed you optimize for the keyword “left handed golf clubs”. This long tail keyword wouldn’t have as many searches, but those that were looking, would be looking for exactly what you offer. This increases the likelihood the reader gets what he wants, and you get what you want.
Be specific. Add additional content that focuses on those long tail keywords and use the sidebar opt in form to get them into your sales funnel.
Until you define exactly who your target prospect is and exactly how they search for information, you can’t nail down the keywords though.
Let me stress the importance of defining your target audience before moving on with this keyword research step. (And when I say defining who your ideal prospect is, I don’t mean something like “a new comer to real estate investing”. I mean who is he, what is his education, does he have kids at home, does his wife work, are they in danger of losing assets because of financial burdens, are the kids at home, are they young, and how much time does he have to devote to his education? Be specific!).
Once you are crystal clear on who you are talking to, you can use language he/she understands and will relate to. You can craft a Unique Selling Point that he/she connects with. You can build a sales letter that makes sense to him/her and addresses his/her specific fears, concerns and hopes.
When you know exactly who you are speaking to, it will be apparent in the words you use. Just address your marketing funnel to that one ideal prospect specifically.
I hope this articles helps define your overall process a little better. If you need help getting it all done, I am here for you. Branding, blogging, setting up sales funnels… I can help with any of it.