When you start to think you’re getting good at content creation, try sharing your writing with the Reddit community called “Roast My Startup.” They won’t just roast your work – they’ll slice it, dice it, and burn it to a crisp. That’s the whole point. They’ll give you brutally honest feedback.
The piece of content I threw into the meat grinder was my first post on the Happy Box Blog. I was feeling pretty proud of this 3,000-word epic post I’d crafted – but one of my personal heroes, Oli Gardner from Unbounce, was nice enough to stop by and tear it to shreds.
In fact, Oli pointed out 9 highly specific problems I needed to fix in my content. I’ve already learned a ton from them. I’ve expanded them; fleshed them out. And now I’m passing them on to you.
Here are the 9 problems, and how to fix ‘em.
Problem 1: Long-winded intros that don’t add value
Problem 2: Hard-to-navigate layout and structure
Problem 3: Writing that conveys no authority or adds no value
Problem 4: Headlines and subheads that don’t help the reader
Problem 5: “Edgy” statements that are actually just whiny or insulting
Problem 6: Tweetables that aren’t worth tweeting
Problem 7: Explanations that don’t provide concrete solutions
Problem 8: Posts that aren’t based on definite outlines
Problem 9: Half-assed calls to action
PROBLEM 1: LONG-WINDED INTROS THAT DON’T ADD VALUE
If you’re reading this sentence, that means my intro section worked. See, we’ve both learned something already.
A reader who makes it through the intro will at least skim the rest of your post. Some might even feel engaged enough to hit that “Share” button. But a reader who gets bored in the intro, on the other hand, just winks out of existence (as far as you’re concerned) and never returns. You’ve lost ‘em for good.
The intro is the only place where you’ve got 100% of your audience’s attention.
The latest research by Chartbeat proves my point. Take a look at this graph. 10% of people never even scroll down the page at all. A full 80% just glance at the photos and videos, but don’t read what you’ve written.
Percentage of Article Content Viewed
Follow these three tips to write intros that hook readers’ attention, right from the start:
a. Build a connection, then empathize about it
Show your audience that you go through the same crap they do. Tell a quick anecdote. Raise a big question. Name a frustration that everyone’s wrestling with, but nobody’s been able to pinpoint. Stir their curiosity about the answer.
When the reader thinks, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m dealing with!” that’s when you’ve got ‘em hooked.
b. Say what this post is going to fix
People want to know how you’re going to help them. If they’re going to invest time in your post, they want a payoff in return.
Nobody wants to read 500 words of rambling explanation before the meat of the post. Readers can pick up on fluff surprisingly quickly, and they’ll either skim it, skip it, or just leave your page. Don’t bother writing it.
As my man Neil Patel says in his post on HubSpot:
It may be obvious to you why the content of your article is important to your readers, but it may not be obvious to them. Let them know loud and clear why it’s important for them to know the information you cover in your article.
Tell them what they’ll get out of this. And make it snappy.
c. Keep it under 150 words
The intro to this article is pushing 150 words, and even that’s enough to test the reader’s patience. If anything in your intro takes more than a short paragraph to explain, move it somewhere else in the article – or just delete it.
PROBLEM 2: HARD-TO-NAVIGATE LAYOUT AND STRUCTURE
Ever get into a gigantic, detailed post about a topic you love? You know, one of those posts that makes you go, “There is no way I’m reading this whole thing today. But I know I’m gonna be re-reading it for months.”
That’s the kind of reaction I’m always shooting for when I write posts like 3290 Word Guide to Optimizing Conversions Throughout Your Sales Funnel.
I’m aiming for readers to bookmark the post and come back to it week after week – year after year, if I did my job – and pick up new tips for different stages of the process.
That’s why it’s crucial to make your article as accessible and navigable as the reference text it is. Insert some anchor links to make it easy to jump between sections.
When your article is accessible, readers will spend more time on your page. If you’ve made it accessible and concretely helpful, they and their friends will keep spending time on your page for a long time to come.
PROBLEM 3: WRITING THAT CONVEYS NO AUTHORITY OR ADDS NO VALUE
Confident writers get to the point.
They express each thought clearly.
They only use as many words as are necessary.
Then they shut up, because they know they’ve made a solid argument.
Follow these five tips to write with authority:
a. Kill off filler words
Which pair of sentences grabs your attention more?
The quality of your content is determined by how valuable it is in addressing the needs of your audience. So don’t write a single word without considering how it benefits your readers.
Valuable content addresses the needs of its audience. Don’t write a word unless it benefits your readers.
Simplicity is Part 1 of the fixes here. Many people don’t catch Part 2.
Believe it or not, the second thing that shouldn’t be there is the word “so.”
“So” is a filler word. One study found that it’s the single word most likely to torpedo a TED speaker’s credibility – and the same is true for blogging. “So” indicates a lack of confidence
, so it shouldn’t be in your writing. (See what I did there?)
As Oli says,
By removing the word “so” from your sentence you create a powerful position statement as opposed to an apologetic teenage shrug.
The word “so” just one example of phrasing that weakens your position – but the point is that readers respond to confidence. They respond to authority. Filler words undermine that authority. Get rid of ‘em.
b. Don’t bother with data unless it’s actually meaningful
Anybody can Google up some semi-relevant stats and slap them together. That’s not thought leadership; it’s cutting-and-pasting.
What if, this far down in the article, I started saying things like, “Using data will make your content 40% more popular,” and started dancing around (metaphorically speaking) like I’d just dropped an epic knowledge bomb on you?
A statistic like that might be factually true – but it doesn’t tell you anything concrete. It’s not actionable. It’s not even specific.
You’d be perfectly justified in asking:
- 40% more popular as opposed to what?
- In what context?
- What are your sources?
- How drunk were you when you wrote this?
…and many other pointed questions.
When you cite statistics in your writing, cite them in relevant, useful, actionable ways. Here’s a great article by the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina – and another article by Buffer – on how to make that happen.
c. Talk transparently about your sources
If you’re proud of your source, don’t be coy about it. And if you’re not proud about your source, then find another source.
Verify the reputation of each source you cite, as far as you’re able. A quick Google search is usually enough to give you a basic “yes” or a “hell no.”
d. Deliver on your promise to add value
Remember in the section on writing intros, when I said you need to promise to fix something in your post? Yeah, readers actually want you to deliver on that.
You might be writing blog posts to draw attention to your products – but that’s not a reason for anyone to read them. They’re investing their time with you because they want to solve a problem, or gain an insight, or just be blown clean out of their socks by the sheer force of your genius.
One way or another, it’s your job to make the ride worth the time.
e. Spellcheck that shit
There’s no easier way to lose credibility than to have “spellng mistaks” in your text.
I mean, do I really have to say this in 2015? When any piece of software you could possibly be writing in has its own built-in spell checker?
There’s just no valid excuse for this.
PROBLEM 4: HEADLINES AND SUBHEADS THAT DON’T HELP THE READER
“I’m so pumped to read this irrelevant wall of text written by a stranger!”
– literally no one ever
A captivating headline tells people your content is relevant; that it’s worth the read. It makes people click your link. It makes at least some of them start reading. And if you’ve written a solid intro, that may just be enough to draw them into your world.
Subheads serve some different, but equally important purposes. They help break up your text – colourfully if you’ve got a good blog design (and you should). They draw attention to important points. They help readers find the sections they want.
In short, an engaging headline gives people a reason to read your article – and an engaging subhead gives them a reason to read each section.
Follow these four tips to write headlines and subheads that leap off the page:
a. Keep your heads and subheads clear and specific
Here’s one of my articles’ subheads that Oli tore apart: “Step 1: Top of the Funnel.”
How many problems can you see with it?
Well, first off, “Top of the Funnel” isn’t even a step. It’s not something to do; it’s just a phrase. Beyond that, this subhead doesn’t tell readers what’s coming in the section below. It’s not specific, so it serves no place as a placeholder.
Nowadays, I’d write it more like this: “Step 1: Reduce unqualified leads at the top of your sales funnel.”
Sure, it’s longer. But it contains a clear idea about what the section’s going to focus on. It helps readers decide to keep reading. Those are the goals of a clear and specific subhead.
b. Pose questions that demand answers
In my post on how to increase conversion rates during your Buyer’s Journey, I talked about crafting headlines that raise questions.
What are the essential elements in Pixar’s storytelling? What homepage clutter am I failing to eliminate? What were the management secrets of the Aztecs?
Give people are reason to want to learn more.
Start with a basic headline – for example, something like, “Are You Tired of Chasing After Hard-to-Reach Customers?” – and make it stronger: “How to Tell Hard-to-Reach Customers From Non-Customers.”
Present a common problem. Hint that you’ve got the solution. Do those things well, and curiosity will do the rest.
c. Write lots of headlines and cross-test ‘em
Two headlines enter! One headline leaves!
Better yet, start with five headlines. Or ten. Makes the battle more interesting.
As this post on CrazyEgg says, “Every headline is clickbait.” Writers for BuzzFeed and UpWorthy write 10 or more headlines for every article, then A/B test them until a victor emerges. Do the same, and your headline has a fighting chance in the social-media arena.
d. Read your subheads in isolation
If they don’t make perfect sense on their own, without the rest of the article to explain to them, they’re not clear enough. Your subheads should tell a story – a simplified story, obviously; but a focused, coherent story nonetheless.
Each subhead should point logically to the one that follows it. Each of them should present its own little self-contained thought, like a short tweet.
If you get stuck, try switching up the order of your subheads, and see if another sequence makes more sense.
PROBLEM 5: “EDGY” STATEMENTS THAT ARE ACTUALLY JUST WHINY OR INSULTING
There’s a fine line between speaking the truth that others have been afraid to say out loud… and just plain being whiny.
Controversy is fine. Jokes are fine. Even a little raunchiness can be fine.
Hold me please.
It’s not always obvious when you’re on the wrong side of this line – as I found out first-hand from Oli – so let me break down what I mean here.
Saying something controversial can be a sign of confidence – provided you say something that needs to be said instead of just begging for attention. If it really needs to be said, then say it. Say it at the right time, in the right way, and it might just turn you into a thought leader.
Saying something insulting or whiny, on the other hand, conveys the exact opposite impression. It makes you sound insecure; like you’re not in control. Or, worse yet, like you actually resent your sector or some of your customers.
In the article Oli roasted, I referred to the majority of people at the top of a sales funnel as “time-wasters.” I thought I was being frank; funny – refreshingly honest, even.
Not really, Oli told me:
“Don’t insult people. Statements like “time-wasters” might seem like a funny thing to say, but it also applies to most of the people reading your post.”
The last phrase is the key there. I was inadvertently insulting my own reader base. Instead of calling these people “time-wasters,” I should’ve used neutral phrases like “the wrong targets” or “non-ideal customers.”
“But wait!” I hear you saying. “People love drama! They love to complain!”
Yeah, they love to complain about their own lives – but they sure as hell don’t want to hear you complain about them. When readers come to your blog, they want solutions. They want uplifting, inspirational, problem-solving content that’s worth sharing because it feels good to read.
If you’re not sure how to walk this fine line – or where your own writing should fall on the controversy spectrum – that’s OK. It just means you’re still developing your voice and testing your brand’s boundaries. The voice you adopt will depend on your audience, and on your own personality and comfort zone. Check out this great guide by Jeff Goins on how to figure that stuff out.
PROBLEM 6: TWEETABLES THAT AREN’T WORTH TWEETING
Embedding tweetable quotes in your article can be a powerful way of keeping the conversation going, far beyond the final line. When done right, tweets are addictive little info packets that automatically keep promoting your content and ideas.
But your tweetables will only create value if they’re well-written, and if they convey meaning in a clever, memorable, and creative way.
Because – as Oli pointed out when he roasted my article – the goal isn’t just to get people to tweet your quote. It’s to get their followers to retweet it, too.
It’s simple to create and embed tweetables with a variety of WordPress plugins. You don’t even need a Twitter account. Here’s what I use myself.
Follow these three tips to craft tweetables that beg to be shared.
a. Create tweetables that thrive on their own
Context shouldn’t matter. Tweetables need to stand alone, without the rest of your article to prop them up.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? And yet I somehow totally missed this with some of my tweetables. It doesn’t matter how suave a quote sounds at the end of a paragraph – it needs to be an unbreakable diamond of wisdom all on its own.
Here’s one of my weak tweetables, which Oli rightly tore apart:
“The goal isn’t to get everyone to buy but to figure out who is genuinely interested and able to pay.”
This is a true and meaningful statement – in the context of the article. Removed from that context, it’s useless. It’s not even exactly clear what it’s talking about.
Make sure your tweetables can survive in the wild.
b. Phrase your thought in an unexpected way
Every thought that can possibly be conceived by a human mind has already been expressed in some shape or form. If that wasn’t true 20 years ago, it’s definitely true now, in the age of 400 million tweets per day.
All that’s left is to say something in a way it’s never been said before. Which is definitely possible if you know what you’re doing.
As John Corcoran says in this excellent article on tweetables:
“A good tweetable quote … captures the essence of a speaker’s speech, talk, presentation, or other messages.”
In other words, a tweetable needs a “Wow” factor – or at the very least, an “A-ha!” factor. People will retweet it if it says something that genuinely needs to be said – or that they wish they’d said themselves.
Controversial quotes can be great tools for this – but as I said in Section 5, there’s a difference between being controversial and being insulting. Stay on the cool side of that line.
c. Hint at a brilliant article behind the quote
Like a smart headline or subhead, a well-written tweetable generates curiosity about the article and blog it came from.
Although your tweetables need to fly freely beyond their original context, they should still make readers think, “Wow. I want to know what else this writer has to say about that,” like this tweet:
Sentences don’t have to say much – just the right things. Our imaginations will fill in the blanks. http://bit.ly/LyV8hS via @copyblogger
Or else, “Whoa. I want to know why this writer said that,” like this tweet:
Want to improve your diet & energy? Stop eating grains! They’re utterly pointless in a healthy diet. http://bit.ly/1hPlL0l via @Mark_Sisson
Either way, your tweetables are pointing back to the core of your own thought leadership.
PROBLEM 7: EXPLANATIONS THAT DON’T PROVIDE CONCRETE SOLUTIONS
Everyone already knows actionable tips are crucial, right? Like, why am I even bothering to point this out?
Because there’s a difference between “actionable” and merely “explanatory.” It’s a difference that many of us miss.
When I submitted my article to get roasted, I felt I’d written a piece that was actionable and valuable to readers. Those were my top priorities, after all.
Then Oli sent me his feedback:
Tell me EXACTLY how to do it. It’s not a step or a process if you don’t teach me how to do it. There’s nothing I hate more in content that someone telling me how to do NOTHING.
My “actionable” tips were mostly a dull mix of general suggestions and complex descriptions.
Strip all that away, and there wasn’t much original thought left to take action on.
Actionable content provides value to readers. It builds on the reader’s interest to teach them how to do something in a way they’ve never considered before.
Here’s how to make your content actionable:
a. Understand your audience’s pain points
Imagine your post through the eyes of your ideal reader.
Now, what keeps this person up at night? Does your post discuss it?
If you don’t know who your target audience is, or what their specific pain points are, then you need to go find out – or else write a different article.
Our Ultimate Guide to Building Customer Centric Marketing Plans That Sell will show you exactly how to find your audience’s pain points, and how to address them.
b. Address their pain and offer a solution
When you complain to someone – a close friend or a stranger – one of the most affirming things they can say is simply, “Yeah, I get it. That completely sucks.”
If they say it in a way that makes you believe them, then you’re suddenly on the same side.
The exact same principle holds true for writing. Point out the exact pain points that bother your target audience. Acknowledge that you get it; you’ve felt the pain, too. You know it needs to change.
Then lay out your solution, and explain how it’ll address the problem.
c. Provide resources for achieving that solution
If you’re telling your audience what to do, you’d sure as hell better tell them how to do it. Otherwise what’s the point?
As Oli said when he roasted me, “It’s throwaway content if you’re not teaching someone how to do something.” So:
– Link to a post where you wrote how to do it
– Link to a post where someone else wrote how to do it
– Include steps within the article itself
Or delete the post and write something else.
d. Communicate. Like. A. Human. Being.
Not a robot.
We’ve all seen articles packed with jargon. It can be hard to tell if there’s a kernel of meaning buried in there at all. Maybe not.
Jargon and cliches provide no value. So focus on clarity. Keep it down-to-earth.
Here’s a great video by Google’s Matthew Cutts on exactly how to do this.
e. Write for skimming, not for reading
You could write the most brilliant headline, subheads, and intro in human history – but the fact is, most people aren’t going to read your article. They’re going to skim it.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. By breaking up your text, using bulleted lists, and providing subheads that are easy to return to, you can capture the attention of readers who don’t have time to read the whole piece – but who may come back to it later, and read in more detail; or even use it as reference material.
Here’s a short, to-the-point article on crafting skimmable posts.
PROBLEM 8: POSTS THAT AREN’T BASED ON DEFINITE OUTLINES
We’ve all written posts that sprawl to insane length, veer off into irrelevant territory, or just plain fizzle out for lack of focus.
Outlining keeps you focused. It also prevents you from wasting time and energy on stuff you’re going to edit out anyway.
Before you even type up the actual outline, spend a few minutes pulling these things together for yourself:
- Your topic idea (max. 3 sentences)
- Your target audience
- The problem you’ll address and solve
- Why anyone should care about this problem
- The solution you’ll provide
- Relevant stories and anecdotes
- Links to research articles and images
- Embed codes of tweets, Facebook posts or videos you want to reference
- Possible headlines
Now you’re ready to write your outline!
List all the major points you need to hit – those will be your sections, and now’s a good time to write rough subheads for each of them. You can always come back and swap in snazzier ones as you write the article itself.
Make sure each of those sections is essential to the argument you’re making. Make sure each one addresses a pain point of your target audience, and comes packed with a concrete benefit. If not, then cut it.
Once you’ve got your resources in one place, and your whole outline on the screen, you’ll be stunned at how quickly the full post takes shape.
PROBLEM 9: HALF-ASSED CALLS TO ACTION
The reader has invested time and mental focus in processing your content. Now it’s time for you to make them an offer – hopefully one they can’t refuse.
Your call to action will differ depending on your business sector, your audience, and which stage of your Buyer’s Journey you’re targeting with your content.
Say, for instance, that your company manufactures custom printing equipment for other printing businesses – and you’re trying to gain interest and demonstrate your authority to readers in the first stage of the Buyer’s Journey.
In that case, you might publish a piece that tells people “ten things to know when buying printing equipment.” The call to action might be a link that offers you expertly researched “Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Printing Equipment.”
When the customer clicks the link, they’ll find themselves on a landing page that tells them what they’ll find in the checklist, and explains how it’ll save them time and money.
And of course, they’ll need to fill out a contact form to get the free checklist. Customers who submit that form have taken another step in their buying journey.
Calls to action don’t always have to be another piece of content or a form submission.
In fact, here’s my call to action for you in this section:
Whoever your audience is, include a distinct call to action in every piece of content you put out. Every single one.
And I’ve got a much more immediate call to action for you, too – the one this whole article is about: Write the most useful, valuable content you possibly can – then get it roasted.
Sometimes leads seem like these weird, mysterious creatures. What do they want? How can they be caught? What’s their secret weakness?
In all this frustration, we forget a very basic fact: leads are people, just like you and me. They ignore ads for the same reasons we all do. They say “no” for the same reasons you say “no.” And – just like you and me – all leads change their minds at some point or other. Your job is to make sure they change their minds for YOU, and not for some other joker.
Here are the six most common reasons I’ve noticed leads say “no” to buying something online – and what to do to fix each of them.
#1. YOUR LEADS DON’T KNOW, TRUST, OR LIKE YOU
Is this person trying to sell me something? Image: knowyourmeme.com
Think about the last time you read an interesting article online.
Maybe you loved it so much you shared it with your friends – but you probably never thought about the fact that an actual human being took the time to write this article because they (gasp!) WANT something from you in return.
Even if you did think about that, a single article doesn’t make you very inclined to trust the person who wrote it – no matter how many adorable puppies dressed like superheroes they’ve just shown you.
Surprise! This is pretty much exactly how your leads think, too.
All the epic content in the world isn’t going to make a lick of difference unless you give your visitors a concrete reason to like you. Give them a free ebook. A free video series. A no-obligation consultation.
Once you’ve actually helped your leads in some way, THEN you can start thinking about building an ongoing relationship of trust with them.
And then, and ONLY then, should you start thinking about how to get them to buy from you.
Because the problem is, right now…
#2 – YOUR COMING ON WAY TO STRONG
Don’t be a pushy sales guy. Image: www.automotive.com
Imagine if some brightly-dressed guy you’d never met came running up to you on the street, screaming, “Here! Take this free book and then buy my video series!”
Gaah! Stranger danger! Break out the pepper spray!
Yet this is pretty much exactly how most marketers approach their sales funnels.
As soon as a lead hands over their email, they’ve got an automated system ready to blast one message after another into that lead’s inbox, loudly proclaiming the urgency of visiting a sales page.
I don’t care how compelling your copy is. I don’t care how worthwhile your offer is. People get freaked out by that level of pressure – no matter how gently you phrase it. They can still see what you’re doing, because we’re all exposed to sales tactics like this every day, and we know the game.
And nobody wants to buy in response to tactics like those. It feels like being tricked – like being “cheap,” in a way. Come on. Try a little harder.
Sure, there’ll always be a few outliers who lap up aggressive offers and buy right away. But those people will NEVER be the majority of your customers – and if you keep using tactics that target them (at the expense of more wary shoppers), then you’re leaving a TON of money on the table.
Stop catering to your outliers and annoying everyone else.
Start trying to get inside the heads of the leads who say “no.”
And you’ll soon realize…
#3. WE’RE ALL TRAINED TO SAY “NO” TO STRANGERS
NO MEANS NO. Image: www.funnyordie.com
Every lead who says “no” to you is doing exactly what their mama taught them.
From the time we first learn to walk and talk, we’re told again and again… and again… to ALWAYS say “no” to unknown people who offer us gifts out of the blue.
And that’s a good thing! If your customer says “no” to strangers, that means they’re smart!
Now, this isn’t to say you never buy anything from strangers. That’s obviously not true – we all buy things from strangers every day. Every time you go to the grocery store, you’re handing over money to a total stranger.
Well… not exactly, though, right?
You’ve been to that grocery store (or one like it) many times before. You know there are laws in place to prevent them from selling rotten fruit.
In other words, you know some basic facts that make you more willing to hand over your money to this PARTICULAR stranger, in this particular time and place.
That’s exactly what your leads want, too. But…
#4. YOU’RE NOT GIVING THEM THE FACT(S) THAT’D CHANGED THEIR MIND
Sooo… what are you trying to say? Image: replygif.net
If a lead has given you their email address, that means they’re interested. There’s SOME fact (or set of facts) you could show or tell them that’d get them to buy, right now.
Your lead may not know, right now, exactly what that “something” is.
But at some point, they’re going to find it, and they’re going to buy – whether from you or from one of your competitors.
We call this a “response indicator” – the specific action, or piece of knowledge, that just about guarantees a customer will respond.
What does this particular lead need to know – or do – in order to choose YOU?
Sometimes the answer to this question is simple. For example, maybe you sell cars, and your lead just wants to take a test drive. Or maybe you sell solar panels, and your leads needs to see that your brand will slash her energy bill more than your competitor’s will.
In most fields, though, response indicators are a lot more subtle.
Say you’re selling a video course.
You might discover (if you’ve got good analytics) that 60 percent of leads who download your free ebook go on to pay for the full course. That’s a solid response indicator.
Or (if you’ve got REALLY good analytics) you might discover that a whopping 90 percent of the leads who download your ebook AND read the whole thing end up buying your course. Now that is a fantastic response indicator.
Your goal is not to push your leads to buy. Your goal is to move them from one response indicator… to the next… to the next… for as long as it takes to change their mind.
But somewhere along this chain of response indicators, you’ll usually start to notice…
#5. YOU’RE GIVING THEM TOO FEW CHANGES TO CHANGE THEIR MIND
Chill and give them some time to change their minds. Image: www.reactiongifs.com
What’s your first thought when you walk past a store window with a big yellow sign that says, “EVERYTHING 75% OFF! LAST CHANCE TO SAVE!”
If you’re like me, you immediately think, “They’re unloading all the crap they couldn’t sell.”
Well, that might be true, or it might not. Maybe the store just needs to clear off their shelves for some new inventory. But it sounds like they’re too nervous about their product to give me time to think about it.
Like I said above, you’ll always get a few outliers who love those kinds of sales.
But the vast majority of your customers will be people who said “no” the first time… and the second time… and maybe the third, too… but finally came around because they were impressed with your consistency and patience.
The more chances you give them to change their mind, the more sales you’ll make.
We call this “multiple conversion points.”
A lot of campaigns have only ONE conversion point, repeated multiple times.
This is a crucial distinction. If you’re sending a whole series of emails that all make the same offer in the same way, that’s still only ONE conversion point. You’re just repeating it.
Your conversions will go through the roof when you make an offer at DIFFERENT points in your buyer’s journey.
This goes back to the concept of response indicators, which I talked about in section 4.
Say you’re trying to sell a video course, but you’re hardly getting any conversions from your email series. Buy you know (because, remember, you have GREAT analytics) that 60 percent of people who download your free ebook end up buying the course – plus a full 90 percent of people who read the whole ebook buy the course.
What’s the logical way to set up your conversion points?
Make sure the offer for the course pops up as soon as a lead downloads your free ebook.
Make sure the offer – phrased differently, obviously – is INSIDE the ebook, where 60 percent of your leads will be thinking of buying.
And make absolutely damn sure the offer is at the end of the ebook, where a full 90 percent of people are primed and ready to buy.
See the difference?
You’re not just sending your leads the same offer again and again, hoping they’ll magically change their mind on one of those repetitions.
Instead, you’re showing them VARIATIONS of the offer at DIFFERENT POINTS in their journey.
You’re giving them opportunities to change their mind – at the exact moments when this change is most likely to happen.
All that’s left is to fix one last problem…
#6. YOU’RE NOT GIVING THEM WHAT THEY ACTUALLY WANT
Maybe you’re just not presenting it right? Image: weknowmemes.com
“Well, duh, Sina!” I can hear you saying. “So I’m just gonna skip over this section, because…”
Just because you make a good product does NOT mean you’re offering your leads what they want.
This trap is WAY too easy to fall into. I’ve fallen into it myself, more than once.
Here’s how it works:
You think, “My leads are interested in increasing their sales. I made a video course on how to increase sales. Therefore, my leads should want to pay for my course.”
Sounds logical, right? Except it’s a HUGE oversimplification.
It’s like saying, “My leads want to travel quickly over long distances. Catapults throw things quickly over long distances. Therefore, my leads should want to pay for catapults.”
Your product or service needs to do more than just generally do what your leads want to accomplish.
You need to help your leads meet their goals – in the ways they want to meet those goals.
And here’s the thing:
Leads are INCREDIBLY skilled at sniffing out products and services that promise exactly what they’re looking for – but only deliver half, or a quarter, of the solution they actually need.
The first step to solving this is to dig into your analytics, and find out precisely where your leads and dropping out.
Example A: Your leads are devouring loads of articles on your website, but aren’t subscribing to your email list. This probably means the list doesn’t promise the kind of help they’re looking for, and you need to restructure your offer
Example B: A lot of leads subscribe to your email list, then unsubscribe a few weeks later. This means your email content isn’t delivering what you promised, and it’s time to put together some better email articles.
Example C: Your leads are downloading your ebook, but not taking action on the offers inside it. That means the ebook’s content ITSELF is not solving their problem, so they’re giving up.
Example D: They’re downloading the ebook and purchasing the video course, but they demand refunds a few days later. This means your videos are not helping in the way you promised, and that pisses your customers off.
Once you’ve found the general source of the problem, the next step is to pinpoint exactly where and why – WITHIN that particular content – your leads are getting frustrated.
Maybe your “subscribers-only” email content is nowhere near as helpful as the articles on your site.
Maybe your ebook is too light on specific, actionable tips, and leads can tell right away that it’s a bunch of useless fluff.
Maybe your videos are way too long and way too boring, and people stop watching them after the first two minutes.
Or maybe… worst of all… you’re promising a specific kind of help, but failing to deliver solutions that ACTUALLY help your audience solve that problem.
Whatever the case, you need to study your audience’s behaviour until you understand exactly WHERE and WHY they’re getting fed up with you.
And then you need to find a way to give them what they actually want.
This can be a frustrating process, I know. That’s why I’m here.
I want to give you one-on-one guidance on how to get your leads to like you, trust you, buy from you (obviously), and love their purchases so much they spread the word to their friends.
When you’re ready to take your sales to the next level, get in touch. Let’s talk about turning your website into a high-powered conversion factory.
Email marketing is the most underused selling tool for local-service and brick-and-mortar businesses.
In this article, I’m going to explain how local businesses can increase customer engagement and sales using email marketing.
It all starts with tapping into the customers you already have.
LEVERAGING YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS
If you’ve served 1,000 clients over the course of being in business, then your email list should already be at least 1,000 names long — if not longer.
If your email list shorter than the number of clients you’ve served, you’re not alone. Most small businesses make the mistake of not collecting information from clients they’ve served.
Why is it so important to collect emails?
Because — at the risk of stating the obvious — there’s no better list of pre-qualified leads than the list of leads who’ve already purchased your services.
Your existing clients are familiar with your business and product — and what’s more, they’ve already shown they’re willing to purchase from you.
If you haven’t already started turning your customers into subscribers for your email list — start right now! Ask every new customer to include their email address when they fill out a work-order or information form — and ask them to check a box to opt in to helpful emails from you.
Remember, you have to receive permission before adding subscribers to your email list. You’ll have a much easier time getting that permission if you have an attractive reason for people to subscribe.
Depending on the service you offer, your customers may need to buy from you once every few months, or maybe every few years.
The question is, are they calling you when they need help — or one of your competitors?
If you’re not proactively contacting past clients and reminding them of their experience with your company, you’re leaving money on the table.
SEGMENT YOUR LISTS
You need to have a deep understanding of your audience segments, because the more relevant and personalized your emails are, the higher your engagement and response rate will be.
Splitting your contacts into sub-lists based location, gender, past purchases, or actions taken on your website (e.g. looked at, or signed up on, a product landing page) will help you increase the value and response rate of your emails.
Here are the 9 problems, and how to fix ‘em.
We worked with a sports store that collected emails from every customer that shopped with them (great!)
But their email marketing campaigns had an open rate of less than 2% (not excellent)
We found out that they were sending emails from every department to their ENTIRE email list. You can’t send promotions for men’s hockey equipment to women interested in yoga and expect much of a return!
Then we segmented, and the results were immediate. Here are the exact steps we took to set up their email campaign:
Use these steps as a guide when creating your own email campaign.
The results were far beyond what we expected. The company’s email open rate went from a measly 2% to a whopping 20%! Not too shabby if I say so myself.
Today, this company still uses email as their top marketing tool, and makes sure to collect customer preferences the moment they ask for an email address.
If you haven’t already segmented your email lists, try sending a small, simple survey (like we did) to your entire list, and use the responses to determine your segments.
It takes a good amount of effort up-front, but you’ll save huge amounts of time and money in the long run by targeting your emails around the specific interests of your leads, instead of sending a hodgepodge of content they don’t care about.
Creating automated email sequences is a great way to increase customer engagement and the value of your email list.
Some companies can almost completely automate their email marketing efforts, while others may require a bit more of a hands-on approach.
Regardless of the type of business you have, there will be opportunities to apply an email automation strategy that will bring value to both your customers and your business.
For instance, you might set up a series of autoresponder emails to be sent to new subscribers as soon as they join your list. This series of emails might introduce your company or product, and begin the process of actively arguing in favour of your product.
Or let’s say you owned an ice cream parlour. You could segment your list based on birth dates, and send pre-created autoresponders to your customers in the weeks leading up to their birthday, convincing them to stop by your ice cream parlour to celebrate or take advantage of a group discount.
Always consider how relevant and valuable your message is, before sending it to your audience.
Sending an in-depth 50-page eBook that isn’t relevant to the needs and interests of your audience is completely worthless.
It’s so simple I’m going to say it upfront and then break it down.
- Capture emails
- Connect regularly to build and develop the relationship
- Add tons of value before asking for anything in return
- Repeat step 3 as much as possible
- Sell something great
STEP 1 – CAPTURE EMAILS
Emails are your life. Image Source: www.memegenerator.net
Capturing email is an important first step overlooked by most businesses. Why?
Here’s my guess on the top 3 reasons:
- They don’t know how to capture emails
- They don’t know what to offer in exchange for emails
- They don’t know what to do with the emails once they have them
Building your email database is critical for the long-term profitability and ROI of your marketing campaigns. It allows you to re-engage with visitors long after they left. Website visitors that you attracted in some way, either.
Remember, nobody just wants to give you their email address. That’s why starting with an analysis of your buyers will give you ideas to create an attractive value proposition for your signup forms.
STEP 2 – CONNECT REGULARLY TO BUILD AND DEVELOP THE RELATIONSHIP
Regular connection is the key to being remembered. Image Source: www.catanacomics.com
Remember, if you have their email address – it’s for a reason. They found SOME value in the product or service you provide.
Just because they aren’t hot, wallet-out, ready-to-buy today – doesn’t mean you can’t maintain that relationship until they are.
Staying connected through email, social media, and paid ads, is critical to keeping your company top of mind, building authority, and gaining TRUST with your prospects.
Remember, selling is about building relationships. It’s something you will need to earn.
STEP 3 – ADD A TON OF VALUE BEFORE ASKING FOR ANYTHING IN RETURN
These points are further explained below.
In order to create value for your audience, you’ll need a deep understanding of who they are, and the deep dark problems they’re really trying to solve.
This is where creating kickass content comes into play.
People often search surface-level information online – but have a deeper problem they’re trying to solve.
For example, someone searching for information on how to build a blog – would probably also be interested in information on how to write engaging content, how to make money blogging, how to build a community online.
By understanding all of the permutations of your customers’ interest, you can create a constant stream content that engages your audience and demonstrates your value.
Whether you’re trying to educate or entertain, here are 3 types of content you absolutely need in the mix:
- Content that solves your customers’ problems or improves their situation
- Content that explains how your product delivers specific benefits in relation to their problem
- Content that demonstrates your authority and gives them a reason to buy from you and not from your competition
Remember, it doesn’t matter how targeted, personalized, or sales-ready your content is. If it doesn’t create value for your customers, it’s meaningless.
STEP 4 – REPEAT STEP 3 AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
I strongly believe that the best way to sell something is to avoid it at first. You need to let people know you first, earn their trust and then you might try to sell to them.
The length of time you’ll need to build trust with leads depends on your product, the cost, and the level of impact it has on their business (if B2B) or life (if B2C).
For example, selling a $1M piece of software that will impact how 500 people operate within an organization, is a lot different than selling a $50 pair of sneakers to someone who already has 50 pairs.
It may not be a perfect equation, but you can think of it as:
LENGTH OF RELATIONSHIP NECESSARILY = COST OF PRODUCT X IMPACT ON LIFE
STEP 5 – SELL SOMETHING GREAT
Make ’em ask for more. Image Source: www.keywordsuggest.org
Your customers aren’t just buying the product or service you offer. They’re also buying the experience and customer service you provide.
Pay attention to detail. It’s the little things people remember and talk about. You don’t need to make any dramatic gestures; just think about how’d like to be treated if you were in your customer’s shoes.
It’s this type of attention that takes your business from being good too GREAT.