In our previous discussion, we talked about seven ways to best retain your loyal customers.
I’d like to continue that discussion today with seven additional things you can do in your business to make your web site “sticky” (as in hard to let go of) and to keep your prospects and buying customers happy with your business to the point they want to continue their relationship with you.
When you think about it, online customers have a nearly unlimited choice of options in almost ever niche.
For you to gain a paying customer and then let that person “go” because their is nothing new or exciting at your site, is not smart business.
It’s much better to actually focus on the needs of your loyal and best customers, possibly even to the extent of giving new customers less attention.
Here are eight additional strategies that will help you to keep your customers coming back:
8. Develop a blog or news component of your web site. Every niche site should have “latest news” capability in the niche. You may not call it news, or a blog, but the idea is to keep your returning customers at the site a little longer so that you can build your relationship with each one. If you do a good job of offering fresh, up-to-the-minute news or dialogue, your customers are more likely to bookmark your site and visit it daily or weekly rather than the site of a competitor. And if they are coming back to your site regularly, they will buy from you regularly as well.
9. Reward your customers each time they make a purchase. You can easily extend a 15% off on your next purchase discount when a customer buys from you. Such rewards will mean you make slightly less per sale; however, many studies have shown that this sacrifice will mean extra dollars to you because the chances are very good that your customer will return to use the coupon where otherwise a followup sale may not occur.
10. Be sure to make the navigation and usability of your web site very simple, efficient, and easy for the customer. The term most often used is “intuitive.” Your customer should be able to easily figure out how to get from one page to the next at your site. If your navigation system is confusing or hard to figure, your visitor will become frustrated and leave very quickly. So have said that any page should be accessible in 2 clicks of the mouse or less. I’m not sure that’s always possible if you have a complex site, but it is a goal to shoot for.
11. Don’t neglect the idea of capturing customer or visitor contact information. So many web sites don’t have an email capturing component even though it would help them to grow a customer list that could be contacted over and over again. It’s unthinkable almost. Offer some type of “freebie” or good content in exchange for the prospect’s contact information. Then use that contact point to send great content to the person in order to get them to return to your site. Many owners have suggested that it takes seven exposures to information before a person finally will take action to do something. They must be engaged in an on-going dialogue of some type in order to get to the point of finally take that action.
12. Provide multi-media experiences on your web site. It’s not difficult to add audio and video to a web site these days. YouTube videos can be embedded quite easily. The idea is to enrich the customer experience so that she has a reason to return again and again. We have already mentioned other incentives to coming back to the site like games, forums, puzzles, surveys, and other types of “non narrative content.”
13. Over deliver on what you give your customers. It’s never a good idea to promise something then go back on what is expected of you. “Under promise and over-deliver” is an Internet business slogan that you will hear quite often. Of course, the idea is to provide the customer with a surprise – an unexpected treat – that will get them thinking positively about what you are giving them. It is easy to do and makes good business sense!
14. One last suggestion: work toward becoming an “authority” site. What that means is try to make your web site the authority in your niche – the one best place for targeted, trusted, truthful and professional information on your topic. There are a whole bunch of benefits to doing this like increased traffic, increased links coming to your site from other sites in your niche, greater trust from your customers, greater search engine ranking, and more credibility for your business compared to others in your niche. You build an authority site by having more and better information and relationships with your customers than they can get at your other competitor’s sites.
15. Always respond to customer service questions and issues immediately, regardless of how difficult or questionable the request may be. Treat your customers like that is your sole reason for being in business – to cater to the needs of your members.
All these suggestions are for the purpose of developing your business into a place where your customers will want to keep returning time after time after time. If you are able to build that type of quality web site, your revenues will increase significantly.
To your online business success,
Freelance Writing as a Career Online
Like every other freelance skill I can think of, profitable writing for the Internet is largely market driven. The consumers of the product ultimately determine what, how much, and the price they will pay for their purchase.
Since the Internet provides access to global markets, and global freelancers, some have complained that they can’t compete against authors in far away places willing to sell their time and work for pennies on the dollar (U.S.). How does an author in the U.S., for instance, make a living writing articles when the going rate online seems to be so depressed?
If no one looking for articles, for example, would pay $5/500 words the price of articles would climb. But there are freelancers that will work “for cheap” and consumers that will pay dirt cheap prices for that work thinking it’s a real bargain … so that market segment exists.
In my opinion, here’s the key for freelance writers: don’t try to compete in that bottom dollar market.
Open your mind to the possibilities of using your writing skills in other ways. Too many writers (many of them newbies) assume that article writing is the only outlet for their work. But it’s not – not by a long shot!
Here are some other ideas for you writers:
1- Use your writing skill to produce your own reports, ebooks, lead magnets, sales letters, whitepapers, how-to guides, freemiums, etc.
Focus your list building on business owners and entrepreneurs, especially targeting a niche or two where you have some current knowledge and experience. Offer the complete finished product (ideally including graphics) and include branding with the business owner’s private logo, contact info, web site link, etc. Sell the finished products “ready to go” so the owner can use it right out of the gate with possibly only very minor changes needed. Charge custom prices for your custom work.
2- Your skill could be used in selling “hot sheets.”
I’m specifically thinking about the entertainment industry, gaming industry, dating industry, etc, but hot sheets can be appropriate for many markets. Subscribe to several hot niche magazines (like People Mag, for one) then focus on “putting your own take” on what you read. Don’t copy or rehash. Be a commentator and produce a weekly or monthly “hot industry news” kind of writing in your chosen niche. Build your list of people that can’t wait to hear from you. If you had 1,000 faithful subscribers that devoured everything you published on a weekly or bi-weekly basis at $2 a pop, you would be happy, right? What if you had 10,000 addicts? Or half a dozen specific niches you covered?
3- Write your own serials, novelettes, novels, plays, short stories, magazine articles.
If you’re good, this road could lead to some major income. I think the key would be to find the genre that appeals to you and for which you could find avid readers. Think about selling “serials” where readers get caught up in wanting to know what happens next with your characters. The same type of content can be written in the non-fiction space as well. The key here is to niche down deeply into the vertical market and specialize. Become the “go to” author for that specialization where avid fans dwell, build your subscriber list, and then feed the hungry audience over and over again with paid content (maybe) giving a nice discount for “valued paying customers” on your list.
4- Do technical writing if you can learn that skill.
There is a great and on-going need for manuals, instructions, how-to booklets, product guides, etc in technical fields. Those who already “speak the language” should focus on areas of their own expertise. Even those without experience could sell their writing in less technical subjects after researching the various appropriate topics online.
5- Write to create your own products.
Every “how to” niche is ripe for product creation where you explain something that needs doing to those who want advice, hand holding, or reassurance that they’re doing something correctly. The sky’s the limit on this one. There are e-books, e-courses, tutorials, reports, PLR content, and lots of other sellable products in every niche from which you can derive a nice income.
6- Instructions to business owners.
I almost hesitate to mention this one simply because it is so powerful if you grasp the idea. The market is online solo and small business owners. The idea is to write short yet authoritative instructions about various tasks that business owners have to do but don’t know how to do, don’t want to do, don’t have time to do, or at least would like to learn how to do better, faster, and cheaper. Think business execution steps of instruction. Let’s face it … more and more everyday people are coming online with ideas to make money. Many fail, of course, but there is a constant need to have a mentor or guide that can help these entrepreneurs to understand and execute specific online business tasks that have to be done. Many of these people know nothing about running a business online. You could be the one that authors the steps to daily online business execution for them.
There are so many things you could write about: getting customers, nurturing customers, promoting services, building or maintaining a web site, doing business taxes, dealing with angry customers, keeping employees happy, outsourcing billing, setting up merchant accounts, email marketing and list building, SEO for their web site and on and on and on. But here’s where you can make your writing very valuable.
For each set of instructions you write, make it specific to one type of business (their business) and one market (whatever their niche might be); for example, “How to promote your dental service online.” Be very specific. Then with just a little bit of “tweaking” you can change your report to “How to promote your bookkeeping service online,” or “How to promote your Investing service online.” By being specific you will attract a much larger and hungrier crowd of prospects in your chosen niche because the prospects see you are writing for their exact business. And by leveraging the concept of re-purposing your content, you can create great content once and then simply modify it a little for the niche audience and have a ready-to-go new product targeted for a totally different niche.
7- Blogging, of course!
This is a very powerful and popular way to express yourself through your writing and many people have learned to do it in a way that provides an income for their effort. To be a profitable blogger you must be disciplined and willing to create valuable niche content on a very consistent basis. You must be a good writer and be willing to share your personality and expertise in your posts. In addition, you must figure out how to monetize your blog. There are many, many ways and methods to choose from in order to generate income with blogging and you will have to decide what is best for you and your audience and then master that technique. There are lots of monetization examples online.
OK, this has been a long discussion but I wanted to help you to start thinking about writing as something other than just producing articles.
The field really is wide open and you can make a substantial income if you get creative, differentiate your writing, be specific in your business model, and provide outstanding service consistently as well as high quality, engaging and compelling writing!
A simple word of caution: great writing (that people will buy) is produced by authors that have writing talent. Many don’t. Certainly, anyone can improve their writing skills over time. But if you can’t communicate at all, can’t form a proper sentence, or don’t like to write, please choose a different way to make money online. I’m serious here. The Internet is a virtual dumping ground for poor and worthless content. Don’t add to it!
To your online business success!
Get Your Content Shared – 10 “How To” Clues for Your Business
Think of the Internet as the single greatest vehicle ever that a business owner has to send his content to the public. Pre-Internet, the options available were the media (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc), books, letters, direct mail and word of mouth. How many small business solo operators use these same platforms today? Some use a few . . .
If you agree that the Internet is the greatest content vehicle, surely social media must be today’s preferred ride! Social media platforms enable any content to be shared easily, quickly, and almost effortlessly without cost or commitment to the creator, the middle man (sharer), or the end user. Not only that, but the sharer can be seen as a valuable friend, a niche expert, and in some cases, even a consumer resource worth paying for!
I believe a business owner (or a freelancer he employs) can prepare content in such a way that it is most “shareable” (if that is a word) and an enticing entry point to his online business. Good content creators have a knack for producing shareable content without thinking about it too much; others of us have to be more deliberate in our content structure and style so that our readers will want to pass along our content.
Here are ten (10) easy-to-decipher clues that should help your business create better shared content. I call them “clues” because these ideas are just that – they are clues that you will have to interpret or fit into your own content process to make them effective for your particular business niche and situation.
1- One piece of content – one purpose. Each piece of content should have a singular purpose, a planned mission, a reason for being. Don’t get greedy and try to stuff too much into one blog post, article, suggestion, or idea. Keep a narrow but deep pattern to each content piece. Answer one question. Solve one problem. Tell one story. Give one piece of advice. But . . . don’t be afraid to go deep into the details of that one subject. If your purpose is to solve a perplexing niche problem, you may not be effective if you just gloss over the details – the step-by-step guidance that people often want.
2- Focus on niche specifics. This clue goes hand-in-hand with the previous idea about your content having just one purpose. In most cases, people don’t share general or obvious content. Why would they? People like to share specific niche tips, insights, solutions, secrets, and stories that might not be found anywhere else. People share original ideas; often things they are hearing for the first time. So focus any content you want shared on things in your niche, your products, your business, or your advice on original thoughts you have – on things unique or particular to your own business. Differentiate your business brand from your competitors and prove your worth in the type of content you offer.
3- Make sharing easy. This goes without saying, but many content creators do nothing to ease the work or time it takes to share their content. Most social media platforms offer bloggers, web developers, and businesses tools and buttons that make sharing a breeze. Make good use of the tools and technology available and encourage sharing at your web site. Some businesses even provide incentives or rewards for the sharers like individual recognition for “serial” sharers, “count” dials for the number of shares by a member, discounts on products for top sharers, or access to restricted content.
4- Professionalism and design are important. Plain text, especially if it is crammed together and difficult to read, is a turn-off for most viewers. Content with lots of errors (spelling, grammar, style) is a turn-off. Hard to read typefaces, narrow margins, and a lack of white space within the content are to be avoided. How the content is wrapped and presented makes a difference – sometimes a big difference.
Think of this clue like this: imagine a beautiful layer cake with fancy chocolate swirl frosting, colorful garnishes, and mouth watering visual appeal. Now, also imagine a greasy-handed mechanic grabbing a big handful of the cake and slapping it down on a rusty old oil pan he grabs from the trash bin for a plate. All of sudden, the delicious cake (content) is not quite so tantalizing and inviting; in fact, it may turn your stomach to even think about consuming it. Sure, this example is a stretch; but I want to drive home the point that great content deserves to be aesthetically pleasing or it may not result in any shares at all – even if the content is valuable!
5- Shared content is interesting content. People don’t share things that are boring, dull, humdrum, tedious, bland, routine, uninspiring, apathetic, and plain. They share things that they believe their family, friends, and other like-minded souls will find interesting, valuable, helpful, cool, fun and/or worth chatting about. People share content to engage others, to keep relationships fresh, and to start conversations that can lead to engagement and dialogue about other subjects and personal interests.
6- Content that entertains gets shared. Sharers like to be heroes. They like to make others feel good, laugh, be happy, smile at their share, and they like to be the one that makes the entertainment accessible to their followers. Research has shown that articles that excite, elicit laughter, inspire, or create awe in the consumer are much more likely to go viral than those that merely inform or give the facts. Why? Entertainment triggers an emotional response, an excited reaction, and subsequently, a desire to include others in the “fun” or wonder.
7- Valuable content is “worth sharing.” A focus group was asked if they individually assessed or judged the value and usefulness of content to the recipient prior to deciding whether or not it was worthy of sharing. 94% of that group indicated that indeed, content value was an important consideration in their content sharing. Most people are generous and caring, at least with those that are in their social media “friends” circle. They want to be helpful and giving to those they engage.
8- Cause driven content. Most everyone has a cause, a crusade, a banner to follow, a team to cheer on, a cross to bear, or a purpose or belief that they want to be known for. Sometimes our causes define us. People share content to show who they are, what they stand for, what they like and dislike, things that (in the sharer’s mind) are right or wrong, and what issues they care about. Cause driven content can be a very polarizing format. Don’t worry that it may upset some, when at the same time, it endears others. Just as with entertainment, cause driven content triggers emotional response and is a likely candidate to be shared repeatedly and by those that are sympathetic and sometimes by those that are hostile to the cause.
9- Sharers want approval and validation. Why do the social media platforms encourage “friending”, “likes,” and “shares”? Research and testing has shown that humans want the approval and acceptance of their peers. In studies like “The Power of Likes”* researchers found that people were more apt (32%) to “like” or up-vote a pre-liked post or comment. If something is already popular within a social group, chances are very good it will be also be popular with newcomers to that group. Can you create or position content that will resonate with your immediate audience? If so, it will likely also be shared by their social circles of like-minded friends and followers.
10- Branded content encourages repeat sharers. Small business owners shouldn’t have to be reminded to create a unique brand and attach it to every piece of content that leaves the business. People that share brand content often return and share more of that same brand’s content over other alternatives. If the sharer sees the value and consistency of content created by a business, chances are good that he/she will return again to share more of that same helpful, or entertaining, or cause-driven content. The value of a group of consistent “serial sharers” to a business can’t be overstated. Create a valuable and trusted brand known for outstanding content and the chances that your content will be shared (partially because of your brand) increases substantially.
Sometimes, being able to work more than one of these ideas into a piece of content will give you some bonus impact with potential sharers. But I would caution every content creator and say that it is not necessary – don’t get carried away with trying to incorporate multiple suggestions given here into one piece of content. Remember Clue #1 – One piece of content – one purpose.
*Source: “‘Like’ This Article Online? Your Friends Will Probably Approve, Too, Scientists Say”, Kenneth Chang in NYTimes.com
Feel free to tell us about other shared content clues you have used in your business.
To your online business success,
Your Public Relations Strategy
I attended an information technology gathering where several PR experts were making presentations on “PR tips” for small business.
I was interested to see if the experts agreed on which strategies worked best and if there were anything new and really innovative approaches to doing online business promotion.
I realize that I don’t have a PR background … but I wanted to understand the field as it relates to marketing online for small businesses.
I have the personal belief (right or wrong) that public relations strategies are:
(1) often ignored by small solo online businesses,
(2) assumed to be too expensive or too complicated and out of reach of the “little guy,”
(3) seen by small businesses as exclusively the tools or resources of the large and well-healed companies,
(4) one of the very best cost effective web traffic strategies there is, and
(5) important for the credibility of your business and product.
It seems that all the PR experts in attendance at this gathering agreed that public relations efforts and success were very important to small business, but they didn’t agree at all on which approaches to PR were the most effective and successful.
That revelation suggested to me that a small business needs to be careful about the PR advice and assistance it asks for and receives as the responses to the plea for help will vary greatly from expert to expert.
I also learned from these experts that most of their clients are lacking in knowledge and understanding of how to initiate effective PR and how to successfully handle a PR crisis. They are very different challenges and need to be treated with customized solutions.
Here are a few of the “take-aways” I learned from this event:
1) Your business should be consistent in giving meaningful PR information and news to the media. It’s easy to spot a story that is made up to “force” or contrive some news about the business when in reality the information isn’t really news worthy at all. Also, make sure the news is not stale or outdated.
2) PR should be looked at as a tool for the management of the company. All your releases will somehow be related to the firm’s goals, reputation, core mission, and bottom-line performance.
3) PR programs and strategies should be performance based and measurable.
Whether your company does it’s own PR or hires an outside agency to handle it, the value of the PR effort should be proven by actually measuring and evaluating the results it gives. Businesses should hold their PR firms or consultants accountable for performance; otherwise, the business has no way of knowing if the expense incurred was worth the money.
4) Don’t be afraid of the media. Be open with them and foster relationships with individuals that you can trust. These trusted allies will be your biggest supporters in times of company crisis.
5) Set goals for your PR program and then measure your results in achieving what you set out to accomplish. Get incrementally better as time goes on (meaning that you don’t put all your eggs (resources) in the PR basket at once hoping for a home run.
6) If you hire an outside firm for your PR, press them to produce tangible successes in their portfolio. See what they’ve been able to create, how much it cost the client, and evaluate if this is the type of results you will accept.
A concluding note: most of the PR experts agreed that businesses need to maintain a blog as part of their PR strategy. How effective a PR tool blogs are remains in question; but companies shouldn’t ignore this strategy.
Most felt that blogs are less effective in giving company information than other forms of PR because they are often very opinionated and “off the cuff.”
Additionally, blogs are not expected to meet the journalistic standards and guidelines that a press release does; but, they shouldn’t be compared on that basis alone.
My personal feeling is this: PR is important for any business, but it is not something that needs to be outsourced in the early life cycle of a small online business. There are PR strategies and approaches that the solo business owner can perform in-house without a lot of expense. Then, as the business grows, matures, and builds a bigger marketing budget, it is time to evaluate and consider whether hiring a PR consultant or firm is worth the expense.
To your online business success,
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