Category Archives for "Marketing"

tea and poetry, leisure time

How Email Marketing Assists Time Management

Sarah feels guilty because she took a day off this week!  She says it’s not rational.  Her business isn’t harmed and she needs an occasional change of scene.  But why does Sarah feel as if she’s done something wrong when she takes a day off?  She wonders why time management always seems difficult.

Business or Pleasure?

Before we consider how email marketing saves time, ask: why do we want to save time?  Saving time has two purposes: it creates more time for your business or else more time for life! 

Time for Business

Many business owners are run off their feet, trying to meet deadlines and implement a growing to-do list.  Business can become all-consuming.  If you seek more time to apply to your business, you need time management.  There are many ways to save time and they are not restricted to email marketing.  Indeed, without a global time management strategy, time you save through email marketing is swallowed by everything else you do. 

Consider whether you can make significant gains through systematic time management or whether your business is naturally growing and you need to build capacity to meet demands of a growing market.

Time for Life

Many people go into business because they are free spirits, who don’t want to be constrained by the 9-5 routine.  It’s not impossible your business will become more constraining than 9-5 employment.  There’s little point saving time, if business swallows time saved. 

Be clear what you want from your business, from the beginning.  Then design a strategy to get what you want from the business.  You may need to compromise, especially during early years but without planning you can easily be drawn into using every minute for your business.

Think about the difference between working in and working on your business.  To work within your business is to focus on service delivery.  This is seductive because it is often the most enjoyable aspect of your business.  It may be essential during early years because you need experience to build a viable business.  As the business grows, you work on it to build capacity, so that you have time to enjoy life outside your business. 

Automation

Email marketing saves time in several ways.  Combined with a time management strategy, it makes a significant difference. 

Scheduling

This is perhaps the most under-valued aspect of email marketing.  If you publish an email at 9am every morning, you don’t need to be logged on to do it!  Schedule emails to go out to different groups of customers at different times of day. 

Bulk Activities

Bulk activities become more helpful as your list of customers and followers grows.  It makes little difference whether you mail 100 or 10 000 customers.  You can set up email campaigns that send different emails to segments of your list or send sequences of emails.   

Evergreen Product Launches

Automate sequences of emails to go out to groups of followers or customers.  These may be introductory sequences that build trust or automated sequences that lead to sales.  These are sometimes called Evergreen Product Launches because they go out to new followers or as a follow-up to people who have already made a purchase. 

Customer Relations Management

CRM is records of customers and the purchases they have made.  Segment lists to reach out to followers who make purchases.  A well-managed email list goes a long way to achieve this without an expensive, complicated custom CRM system.  You waste a lot of time with muddled customer records and email services go a long way to help you keep track of contacts.

Time Management

Taken alone, email systems don’t meet all time management needs.  Maintaining a large list may be time consuming in its own right.  So, you need a time management strategy.

The most effective way to do this is to get someone else to do the work.  Short of dragooning your family into involuntary graft, you have two options.

Hire people to do the work.  For example, some businesses offer administration support.  They may be expensive but if you need help with a specific task or have less work than warrants an employee, they may help.  Many services save time, even though they may not make a big thing of it.  Accountants take care of financial management, for example.

It’s worth considering whether you can save time outside your business, for example by hiring a domestic cleaner. 

The second option is to employ staff.  This is crucial if your business grows to the point where you need staff to manage aspects of the business.  If you plan on a business that mostly supports your work, you may get by with minimal assistance.  But larger businesses need managers.  They are not easy to find!  You need to hire people who could possibly take on a management role within 2 years.  This way you grow managers inside your business so when a vacancy arises, you have a pool of people to move into management positions. 

This completes this sequence about the advantages of email strategies.  Visit the first blog post about email marketing for a list of the posts and links to them.

learning

How to Educate Followers Through Emails

Sarah is not happy with sales for her first online training course.  She accepts first attempts are rarely brilliant but she can’t see what else to do to sell an online product she knows is very good.  She promoted the course through email marketing and wonders whether there’s more to educating followers before she makes an offer.

Educate Followers by Adding Significant Value

Use the OVO method to mail valuable information to your list before making an offer.  The offer appeals to those who value the free information and sign up for a deeper exploration of the subject.

The information shared during an initial marketing campaign serves several purposes, by

  • demonstrating your knowledge of the subject,
  • showing you convey it in an accessible and clear way,
  • pointing to further knowledge and expertise they gain by participating, and
  • showing the benefits of mastering the subject area.

Use an initial sequence of emails to help your market understand the value of your offer.  It is common for markets to be unaware of a problem, perhaps because they are unable to name it, or don’t believe there are solutions, let alone you offer a solution. 

Share information that opens the gap between their current understanding of their problem and the possibility of doing something constructive about it.  Your offer must bridge that gap.

Teaching during your marketing takes various formats.  It should be enough to sell the offer and no more.  You would expect less work to promote a low-end offer and much more for a high-end offer.  Aim to convey the value of your offer so the customer finds the offer worth more to them than its price.

There are many online media to market your offer and what you choose depends on the information you must get across.  Everything in this list is promoted through email and social media.  Use social media to find opt-ins to your email sequence.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Use email to promote low-end offers, with a link to a landing page
  • Long sales letter on a webpage
  • Video
  • Audio, for people to listen to driving or jogging.
  • Webinars

Resistance to Education

There is resistance to education, from a variety of sources.  Some people don’t like reading on screens, for example.  Others have bad experiences of education. 

Beware of words like “education” or “learning” and their derivatives.  People want to know the benefits of your product.  “Find out how to…” may work better than “Learn how to…”. 

Educate followers about the value of your offer.    In the earlier stages, where you raise awareness of the problem and demonstrate it can be addressed, you don’t need to mention your offer other than to hint it is coming.  Simply communicate interesting and helpful stuff. 

Once people see the value of taking this work further, offer your solution.

How Much Value?

How much value should you offer during your marketing?  There’s no one size fits all answer.  There’s no in-principle limit to the amount you share.  However, your offer should promise a step-up in value from your marketing.  How? 

  • Offer bonuses that cover essential areas you did not cover in your marketing. 
  • Present teaching material in a variety of user-friendly ways, eg handouts via pdfs.  Diagrams and mindmaps appeal to some customers. 
  • Demonstrate your offer presents in-depth knowledge for those who appreciate your marketing.  What is the value of going deeper?
  • Demonstrate your offer helps them apply new skills to their specific circumstances. 
  • Offer contact with other customers, supporting a community of users who help each other with application of learning. 
  • Share materials produced by customers as a result of your offer.
  • Feedback to customers.
  • Offer opportunities to ask questions.
  • Sometimes confidentiality may be important.  Also consider related issues, such as copyright.

Few of these happen during marketing campaigns.  Think about the support customers need to implement solutions you offer and work out how your offer delivers them

The next post is the final one in this sequence about email marketing.  Email saves time.  Really!  Read it to find out more!

skydivers

How to Generate Excitement using Emails

Sarah prepares to launch her new course about how to become and remain healthy through diet.  She has a list of potential customers but they have not made this commitment before and so she worries they won’t respond to her emails.  How can she generate excitement through her emails?

Sarah uses OVO email strategies.  She understands people who are interested opt into her list.  She sends regular emails that share advice about healthy diets.   Now she wants to make an offer and she needs to communicate its value to them.

This post focuses on the content of the emails.  The subject line is integral to the success of this strategy.  A good subject line increases excitement and encourages people to open the emails.  So think about spending 10 minutes at least on the subject line for key emails. 

Tension Builds Attention

Let’s start with Value emails, they build reputation and so don’t aim to make direct sales.  Don’t promote specific offers all the time.  These emails serve some specific purposes:

  • Emails remind people you exist.  Recipients don’t need to open them.  They see and delete them but know you’re still in business.  If they’re really not interested, they may unsubscribe.  This means they are unlikely customers, so don’t worry about it.
  • It’s better if they open your email and read it.  They’re more likely to if they are keen supporters and more so with a good subject line.  You see who opens emails from statistics, collected by your email service.
  • The content is educational and inspirational.  You share valuable information, so those who want more are likely to respond to your offers. 

When someone opens your email, how do you get them to read on?  The most effective way is through a story.  In early sentences, build tension, resolved at the end of your email.  In between you can break off your story for teaching.  Finish with a call to action, perhaps encourage readers to click on a link.  For example, Sarah could finish with a link to a recipe on her website.  These could be coupled with low-end offers during the times when she’s not running a campaign.

Use Anticipation to Generate Excitement

When people open and read emails through to the end, the next step is to build anticipation between emails.  Release three emails that build on a theme and then a fourth that makes a big offer.

These 4 emails taken together are similar to a long sales letter.  Plan them together as such.  Sometimes they are called a sideways sales letter.  The call to action of the first builds anticipation for the second, the second for the third.  The third builds anticipation for the offer so recipients look forward to your offer email, if only to see what your offer is.

There are many ways to do this.  Videos are perhaps most effective.  A 10 minute (maximum) video offers immediate value and raises anticipation.  The content is mostly teaching with a story arc that builds anticipation.

Why Do Prospects Respond?

A lot depends on your offer, so focus on offering something people really value.  What do your prospects find valuable?  Prices should reflect value to the customer.  They buy if they perceive the price to be less than the value of the product to them.

Most marketers suggest you consider these other factors.  Some are introduced by you and some are there anyway.

Scarcity

… helps if you sell something genuinely scarce.  It is unlikely to convince with online products but may apply to physical products.  Applies where events have maximum seating capacity or offers include one-to-one coaching, where you are limited by capacity.  It may be possible to argue an online course has limited seats, if you offer personal feedback short of one-to-one coaching.       

Time limits

… similar argument applies.  Don’t impose artificial deadlines.  An invite to an event is a good example, it has to be on a certain date.  This may work for online courses where there is live input from you, so you need people on board from the start. 

Guarantees

… may help, especially where prospects don’t know you.  A simple refund is all you need.  Some offers promise a refund up to 30 days.  These are rarely activated.  If they are, honour the promise without question and with grace so you can find out more about the reason.  It’s not worth offering guarantees with low-end products.  Be open to occasional expressions of dissatisfaction.  If someone made a genuine mistake with the purchase, then make a refund.  Don’t feel obliged to refund people who don’t turn up for live events.  Most understand this payment should be written off.  If someone made a genuine mistake, offer them an upsell with the original payment as a discount!

Bonuses

… are additional offers attached to the main.  It helps if they are relevant to the offer.  Sarah could offer access to her collection of recipes, for example.  If you use affiliate marketing, your affiliates may offer bonuses too.  Probably less effective with low-end offers, although you could bundle a few things to sell at a low price. 

Endorsements or Testimonials

… show how others value your products.  Endorsements come from recognised experts in your field.  If you use affiliate marketing, they could be affiliates but in any event they are recognised for their authority.  Testimonials are from previous customers who have experienced your work.

Offering real value at each stage is key.  This means commit to educational content readers can implement immediately but leaves them wanting to know more.  We’ll look at this in depth next time.

Paper lamps store stands out.

How to Use Email to Explain Your Business Why

Sarah communicates with potential customers by explaining why she is in business as a nutritionist.  She knows the value of why she is in business but sometimes it’s hard to explain her business why clearly. 

Why Explain Your Why?

It helps people decide to use your services.  Chances are other businesses offer something similar to yours.  It matters little whether they are better or worse.  Someone who has not used your services has no way to assess your business and few customers buy similar things from more than one business to track differences. 

The challenge is to to attract customers by explaining why you do what you do.  Many marketers believe it is your why that sells.  Let’s consider two things similar to your why and how they fall short.

How You Work

You invest many hours and a small fortune getting qualified and so the temptation to explain how you work is hard to resist.  Some prospects want this information but only when they are close to a decision.  A case study is a good story-type that shows exactly how you work.

However, most prospects are not particularly interested in how you work, until they experience it directly.  Even then, they’re not necessarily interested in detail.  You might lead guided mediations.  Does it add anything to know your guided mediations are informed by neuro-linguistic programming?

Transformation

A more common mistake is to confuse the change you want to see with your why.  The problem here is the transformation you want to see is likely to be shared with near competitors.  I may totally agree with your aspirations and want to support them.  But if there are three others in the room who advocate the same transformation, how do I choose between you?

Your Business Why

Your Why distinguishes you from your competitors.  It helps prospects choose you.  Chances are when people hear your personal story, some like what they hear and others don’t.  The former are prospects.  The rest choose your competitors. 

Your why, therefore, means you don’t have to indulge in cutthroat competition.  You position yourself as a person some get on with and others don’t.  Does this mean you inevitably lose those who don’t find your story attractive?

Maybe not.  If you are good at telling a compelling story, you are likely to have clarity on your side.  And clarity sells.

Using Email to Communicate Your Business Why

In OVO marketing, use V for Value to communicate your why.  You discuss the transformation you want to see but explain why you got there.  Why do you think this change is important?  You may have a lifetime’s worth of experience of the change you want to see, positive and negative. 

Use emails to tell stories.  Bring each story to a conclusion that illustrates your why and points to the change you want to see.  It is not solely knowing what to do by way of solving the problem, prospects want to see you understand the problem.  Your first task is to recruit them to your cause, so they are keen to support it. 

Do this on social media but email is more effective because it addresses a supportive audience.  There is no need to fear unsubscribes, they are people who are not listening.  They make space for new people who want to hear your take on the problem.

One important key is to pay attention to the end of your stories.  Do they clearly make a point and lead to a call to action?  An ending that fizzles out in some joke or undermines great teaching in the middle of the story, is unlikely to be effective.  The best stories generate excitement, so how do you do that?

Pattern from mobile

Email Strategies for Product and Service Design

Sarah has sold a new online product.  She wrote a pdf about how to diet and offered it to her list for £10.  Up to now she’s offered coaching and workshops; she never thought people would buy something she had written!  Her customers were mainly people who opened her emails and so she could see her OVO strategy had paid off.  This is a low end sale but now Sarah thinks she may be able to sell an online course.  But she needs ideas for product and service design.  What else can she sell and how?

Compatibility

You can sell almost anything online.  It does not need to be an online product or service.  Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Build relationships of trust using email and sell on your website.  Most people get that if they follow the link, you offer them something. 
  2. Explain what will happen.  Paying online and being left with uncertainty is not a positive experience.  Deliver online products immediately.  Online services may be slower, eg a webinar will be on a specific day.  Offline products and services require time for delivery.
  3. Work out what the customer needs to know before paying and what they need afterwards.  For example, if it takes 5 working days to deliver, say so on the sales page.  Say the same again on the thank you page and what to do if nothing turns up! 
  4. Ask for feedback on the offer itself and its delivery – find out about the customer’s experience.
  5. When you record a negative experience, work out how to compensate the customer, commensurate with the inconvenience they suffered.  How can you mitigate this for future customers?

Online Products

These are easiest. You set them up and people download or access a members’ site, immediately on payment.  Drip-feed teaching material into a members’ site but immediate access and something to do before the start of the programme reassures.  Reward their enthusiasm immediately.

Introduce a bonus; something extra with a download or on a members’ site.  Perhaps not essential for a low-end product but always worth considering.

Consider an upsell.  “If you like this pdf, why not buy this online course?”  Offer an upsell at the time of purchase, the end of a course or after downloading a pdf.  Try something like: “Give me feedback on this product and I’ll offer something else at reduced cost”.  The customer has bought from you and so may be ready to buy again.  If you have something substantially bigger in mind – ask if they would like more about the topic and send them a sequence of emails, ending with an offer of the bigger product.

Examples of online sales includes pdfs, videos, podcasts, email sequences, webinars, online courses, access to an online community.

Online Services

These are likely to be more personal and so higher end products.  They may include online coaching, group work, masterminds.  The more personal the contact, the more you charge.

It is better to be paid up-front. There’s little point receiving payment for one session, when you need several to achieve the desired goal.  As soon as someone makes a payment, give them something.  You might have some teaching material and access to it could be a bonus (announced in advance).  Or give the customer something to prepare for the first meeting.  Book the date and time for the first session at the time of registration.  Book further meetings later but have the first in place at least.  This not only reassures the new customer but gives them a goal to prepare for.

Offline Services

These are similar to online services, the main difference is meeting face to face.  Communicate and provide preparatory material online.  This applies equally whether you supply coaching, workshops or training.

Offline Products

Perhaps most challenging because you need to package things and put them in the post. 

Let’s start with digital products.  Why don’t you provide these as a download?  You can prepare a course for DVD, to be copied and packed by a supplier.  When the customer signs up, the supplier receives the order, produces the product, packs and mails it.

The alternative is to do it yourself and this could become labour intensive unless you have loads of willing helpers who don’t make mistakes.  There are online suppliers who can help, so make enquiries.

Email Strategies Product and Service Design

Delivery may be offline but you can sell almost anything online.  The key is grow and market to your list.  When you make new contacts, get them to sign up to your list.  How can you use it?

Marketing

The basic OVO strategy is foundation for marketing. From there, design product launches and other ways to bring your list to sales.  The basic structure is simple but you must design the details.  Some say give away up to 80% of your content and people buy the last 20%.  I’m not convinced this is true.  Is it particularly important what % of what you know is given away?  Mostly people need help implementing what they already know.  They save a lot of time working with you to develop their systems. 

Testing New Ideas

If you have a new idea, test it on your list.  Testing is not necessarily producing a prototype.  You could ask if anyone is interested in your idea.  Possibly a few people who respond and say “Yes, it’s a good idea” is enough.  Other possibilities include the seed launch, where customers pay to help you develop a new product and receive a copy, at the end in return for their support.

Ordering Products

Working out how much sales copy to feature in your emails and how much on your website is one of the tasks in designing your funnel.  Once you have a customer, you have someone who may respond to new offers.  Otherwise spend time offering value, to help customers make a purchase.  It helps when you know your offer sells offline; if you have sold it face to face, you have some idea how to sell it online.  The only way to make a sale is to make an offer.

This brings the focus back to Value, the V in OVO.  This is where you make a big difference by explaining your why.  How?  That’s my next topic.

Laptop and notebook

Why Design an Email Marketing Strategy?

Sarah made a massive breakthrough when she understood how email structured her marketing strategy.  Like many others, she assumed email is out of date.  She had an account flooded by promotional emails but kept it going as a means of communication until she designed her email marketing strategy.

Sarah reads very few promotional emails and spends more time deleting them. What made the ones she read stand out from the others?  They were informative, interesting and entertaining.  Why did these writers rarely attempt a sale?  Sarah probed further and reached conclusions like these:

Inexpensive

You can spend a lot of money on social media, buying ads.  This is not a bad thing, so long as the ads open up new leads.  But what happens to those leads?  You need a strategy to hold the interest of people who express opt-in.  Even if they make a purchase directly as a result of the ad, what happens next?  Satisfied customers may buy again but only if you build a relationship with them.

Email marketing helps structure your business with a small financial investment.  The only payment you need is to your email service.  You have an email account in any event, so there is no extra charge there.  If you use MailChimp, you get a free service for up to 2000 email addresses.  Note, the offer is limited and you may need to pay for some services.

You can’t do as much with an email service as you can with Customer Relations Management (CRM) software but you can do a lot and CRM too early maybe a waste.  Find out the limitations of your email service and then seek out what you need.

Scalable

With an email service, it makes little difference whether you have 100 or 10 000 addresses, apart from higher fees.  Many businesses boast about the size of their lists but quality is more important than quality.  What you need is warm supporters, not cold leads.  100 warm supporters may bring more business than 10 000 cold leads, who lost interest months ago.  Track who opens emails and follows links, to periodically cull your list, especially if the cull reduces email service fees. 

Segment your list.  The email service automatically segments your list, eg by marking new additions, those who open emails, etc.  Manually tag email addresses to record where they came from, their interests, past purchases, etc.  With a bigger list, you rarely send the same email to everyone.  You can write an email for any segment.

Systematic

This enables you to systematise marketing.  You know where everyone is in your sales funnel and whether they have made a purchase. 

As you grow your list, work out your main sources of new members.  Tag new members and decide what contact you want with new members.  Consider an autoresponder email sequence to introduce them to your business. 

Send emails regularly, so your list don’t forget you.  Even a deleted email fulfils that purpose.  At least one email a week helps keep people aware.  If it contains quality content, the chances are some will habitually open them.  Then, when you make an offer, include a link to the offer on your website. 

Segmentation helps you make targeted offers.  You may offer reduced prices to previous customers, for example.

Flexible

With an email strategy, integrate other online or offline facilities into your marketing strategy.  Sources of new list members might be social media, PPC, business networking, SEO via your website, manually entered.  This way everything you do integrates into your email strategy.  If something goes wrong with one source of new prospects, concentrate on others until you fix the problem. 

Knowing what you seek means you switch to new methods with ease.   There’s no prescription for exactly what you do.  Every business is different. Once you understand the basics, develop your own approach.

And that’s not all!  Email strategy includes design of products and services.  I’ll show you how next time!

Door with 5 locks

How Email Lists Help with Compliance

Sarah has spent all morning making her website GDPR compliant.  She is frustrated because she could be doing other stuff.  She is irritated by pop-up banners informing her of cookies and endless emails telling her about new privacy policies.  Is this stuff really necessary for compliance?

Here are three points to guide thinking on this issue.

  1. I am not an expert in the relevant legislation.  What follows are guidelines. It is always your responsibility to be sure about the law as it applies to your business.  If in doubt, take legal advice.
  2. Most legislation is based on courtesy.  We don’t talk much about courtesy these days but if you think discourtesy is the way forward for your business, be my guest.
  3. Most issues you are likely encounter are covered by your email service.  This is why you should use them.   Follow their advice and you won’t go far wrong.

Privacy

Keep only information you need to run your business.  Inform people you keep information about them and supply them with it if they ask you.

If they opt into your email list, they know about it.  Double opt-in, where they confirm by clicking on a link in an email protects against third parties entering names maliciously.  For this reason you don’t need it for entries you make yourself.  Simply make sure the person whose details you enter knows you have done it.

If you use cookies, you need a discrete mention somewhere on your site.  I’d put in in the footer if I needed it.  You could mention it alongside the link to your privacy policy.  Most people don’t care you have these but should be able to find them.  The footer is an obvious place to look, so put it there!

Dishonesty

You don’t intend to defraud customers.  Do your best and you won’t go far wrong.  The legislation is not aimed at honest businesses.  However, good intentions don’t exempt you from following the law.  It does not look good if your attitude to compliance is sloppy. 

Comply with the jurisdiction you are under and the jurisdictions your customers are under.  This is why you sometimes need legal advice. 

If you are reported, you are likely to be informed of where you are alleged not to comply.  Fix the problem.  Show due diligence and you should not be in serious trouble.  We get pop-ups and emails informing us of compliance, because businesses want to be seen to be compliant but is this strictly necessary?

Complaints Procedures

Not every business needs a complaints procedure but it is worth considering if you have a lot of customers and several staff serve them.  It shows you have a positive attitude towards complaints and means initial complaints are likely to come to you instead of to authorities or social media. 

Most complaints are not really complaints.  A customer or follower sees something that needs fixing and points it out to you.  They are actually doing you a favour by providing feedback. 

Investigate and identify the problem.  Then inform the person who complained, by when you intend to fix the problem.  If you fail to fix it by that time, then the complainant has grounds to take their complaint further.

But even so, mitigate the problem by communicating.  Let them know you’re onto it if you pass the deadline.  Explain why you have not met it, tell them what you are doing and set a new deadline – hopefully by this stage you have a more realistic understanding of the problem.

Larger businesses who receive many complaints, publish their results.  In some businesses complaints are inevitable, eg housing associations, where the leaky gutter is not really a complaint, it informs the organisation of something that needs fixing.

If you are unresponsive, you appear unprofessional and this works against you.  Think strategically and turn negative complaints into positives.  Email marketing should be the backbone of strategic thinking and we shall turn to that next time.

How to Protect Your Business Security

Sarah is very shaken. Facebook banned her!  She’s not sure why.  She has a successful Facebook group that sends new prospects to her email list at a rate of about one a week.  Fortunately this is not critical to her business security, she can find other customers elsewhere but the group is a great place for conversations that give her insights into her market.

She must have broken some rule, possibly triggering an automated response.  It took ages to work out how to make contact with a human being, who reassured her but it took the best part of a week to resolve the issue. 

Corporate Rule

Sarah is very fortunate, some people are banned from social media platforms for much longer than a week.  The reasons are not always clear and if they have broken a rule, it can be inadvertent. 

This is likely to become a bigger problem for a variety of reasons.  Here are a few:

  • Spam has been recognised as a problem for many years and there are automated responses in place.  Posting the same post in several places can trigger an automated response. 
  • There has been a lot of adverse publicity for social media platforms publishing material with violent, sexual or extreme political content.  As they tighten up security it is impossible to predict what will trigger a response. 
  • Most platforms aim to monetise their services and so are likely to become less tolerant of unpaid marketing.  Penalties may be accidental or deliberately planned.  Why should some business receive benefits other businesses pay for?

The root problem is the social media platform owns your posts.  They change the environment on a whim and it has not been unknown for a business to lose all its followers.  Build your online business in a way that is secure from changes to social media platforms and does not incur penalties from breaches of rules, intended or not.

Secure Records

Email lists are the only secure online place to keep customer records.  Use email services such as MailChimp or Aweber or else more complex CRM services, eg Infusionsoft or Kojabi.  So long as you pay their fees, MailChimp has a particularly good offer for starter lists, you know your lists are secure. 

In addition, these lists help you to stay legal and avoid mailing spam.  They help you run a secure business, less likely to be criticised for poor business practices.

Once your list is in place, go forward with more confidence.  Here are a few things to consider. 

  • Use social media to feed prospects into your lists.  Do this directly, through a link to a squeeze page or indirectly by offering to sign up someone who makes contact through social media.
  • Don’t depend solely on one platform.
  • Sell from your website and keep sales low key on social media, eg click here for more information.
  • Post high quality content that aims to draw people into wanting more from you.
  • Try to engage in conversations by starting them in your own groups or engaging with people in other groups.

Overall, use social media strategically to draw prospects into your sales funnel and never be dependent on one platform.

Next time, I shall consider the question of compliance with regulations such as GDPR.

drink overflowing

Using Email to Build Capacity

Sarah’s business is doing so well, she has encountered a problem.  There are not enough hours in the day to provide a quality service to coaching clients, do her marketing and business administration. This is success! However, Sarah doesn’t have time to think about the future.  How can she build capacity when she is run off her feet as it is?

Decide About Capacity

Sarah must make one decision before she decides anything else. Success has its own momentum. Does she want to expand.  This may seem perverse.  Why should she not expand?

It depends on what she wants from her business.  If she is comfortable with current capacity, she needs to work out how to manage it so she is not run off her feet.

However, if she decides it’s worth expanding, this is an opportunity to make a real difference.

Is she an entrepreneur, who wants to build a mainstream business?  Or is she a creative who wants enough income to live comfortably, while she does things she enjoys?

Building Capacity

Both options require capacity building and both need an email strategy.

“Steady State”

Let’s start with the steady option.  Although this option does not aim for growth, the business needs to recruit customers.  It’s not a do nothing option.  Sarah needs to automate as much as possible so she can enjoy her lifestyle. 

Her aim is to maintain income at a certain level, with an annual increase so that standard of living remains constant.  To reduce time spent on the business to a minimum.  This creates time for non-business activities or to develop new ideas, so the business innovates and does not stagnate.

The aim is to find low-cost ways to build capacity.  These are likely to be self-limiting and that is what she wants.

First, consider price increases.  This works if costs do not increase with price.  It may be possible to make enough money with less work, because you need fewer customers.  Make a gradual adjustment to prices, to work out what prices the market can bear.

Next, review automation.  This is where email lists pay off.  Can you do what you need to do with a basic email service or do you need something more advanced?  Customer Relations Management Services may be costly, so spend time working out what you can do with what you already have.  However, the rewards of good CRM may outweigh costs.

Growth

Growth implies greater costs. The best solution depends on the business.

A natural way to expand is to take on staff.  This implies increases in salaries, premises and other on-costs.  At this stage, you need a business plan if you don’t have one already.  You may need investment.

There are intermediate possibilities.  You could pay for administration services.  These may free up time, to take on more customers or do business planning.

This is not an easy transition and it may mean a cut in your own drawings from the business until income compensates for new expenditure.  So there is an element of risk.

Your email strategy should pay off. If you grow your list and use more advanced CRM services, you can transition to a service that enables you to do more online, delivering services as well as marketing them.

Don’t Forget Why

Finally, don’t forget the value you deliver to your list.  Increased capacity means a lot more work and this can result in loss of focus on why you are in business.  This is not trivial.  Your why is your main selling point. Lose track as you expand, you sell less because people no longer see why they should buy from you and not a competitor.

This is why you must maintain lists and track your customers and followers.  Value your list as your most valuable asset.  What would happen if you lost your list?  Security is paramount. 

Two cyclists following a track

How to Get Started with Customer Relations Management

Sarah is freaking out.  She is convinced her business is in meltdown.  After good progress, she is struggling to keep track of prospects and customers. Does she need customer relations management?  It is important track customers, the stage they are at and potential for future sales.

Sarah has heard of CRM services and thinks she should sign up for one of them so she does not have a lot of remedial work if she delays.

Keeping Track

Keep track of your customers.  Once you have clarity about the goals of your business and find success at marketing and sales, CRM becomes more important, especially if you plan to expand your business.

May I make a suggestion?  During the early days of your business, keep a paper tracking system.  You won’t have many clients, so it should be manageable.  As soon as it becomes hard to keep up, that shows you are ready for automation.

This way you work out a system that works on paper and test it.  Of course, when you automate, things change but you have more chance of being on top of the new system, if familiar with the elements you need to record.

FEBE

FEBE stands for Front End Back End.  You need to design both.  An early paper system helps you see what you need.

Sometimes, people see the need for FE but not so much for BE.  At the early stages of your business, with no clients and few contacts, you naturally design the FE to record the contacts and clients you need.  Broadly, your focus is on marketing.  How do I find my market and get them into the front end of my business?

The BE is your records of prospects and customers.  You need to record where they are in your sales funnel and what they have already purchased from you.  For current clients, you need to record where they are in your coaching programme too. 

Remember, new clients are more expensive than old.  Once they are on your list, some may be tempted to buy from you more than once.  This depends on what you sell, of course, but once you find them and they know like and trust you, the costs of marketing new products and services to them are lower than seeking new customers.

CRM services help you manage all this.

Email Services

Email services, eg MailChimp or Aweber, manage your email lists.  More expensive CRM services cover this too.  You may not need anything more than an email list.

It is worth building a list from the earliest days of your business.  Email services are an efficient way to look after your lists and help you stay legal.  They offer three main services:

  1. Broadcast emails – go out to your whole list or segments of your list (there are several ways to segment them).  Send broadcasts immediately or schedule them.
  2. Automated sequences of emails go out once someone signs up to your list.  These could be one or 2 brief greeting emails or a longer sequence, you can advertise as a lead magnet.
  3. Systems that publish blog posts on a regular schedule. 

Customer Relations Management Services

CRM services such as Infusionsoft and Kojabi, build on basic email services.  They are more expensive than email services, significantly more complex and may take a lot of time to learn how to use them.  Survey the market to find out what’s on offer. 

If you think you need one, take an early look ro see what they offer.  Find out which services are a good fit with your paper systems.  It is possible you’ll have difficulty implementing the CRM service even if the fit is good.  These are all issues to consider.

These applications depend on a sound email marketing strategy.  Take capacity seriously.  It’s not only current capacity that matters but whether you want to increase it in the future.  We’ll look at this next time.

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