Most businesses are at least three years behind when it comes to utilising web technology to grow their bottomline. What is most disturbing is many business owners have no clue which pages of their website are making money.
Two highly successful American bloggers and website experts Dan Morris and Rachel Martin, who own Blogging Concentrated, are in New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch) from May 1 to 9, to advise business owners about what it takes to build a community online, build a profitable business from that community and leverage the community to generate sales.
Idealog managed to sneak in a few questions for Morris to chat about what makes good content, why some fly and some fail, why making your customers smile, laugh and cry will help sell your products.
Q: It is the magic chalice isn’t it? Companies who can find out how to build websites that drive traffic and transactions. What are some easy picks you can share for small- and medium-scaled enterprises in NZ on how to have a good blog/website, and how to create that magic ‘viral’ video or post?
A: This is a question we are often asked by business owners, but rarely by bloggers. In fact, this is the hallmark knowledge that separates a high income blog from a struggling business website. One of the reasons we travel the world teaching online marketing knowledge is to help bridge this knowledge gap.
In business, whether online or not, relationships create wealth. Just as a waiter relies on the rapport he builds with his table to determine his tip, our websites rely on that same rapport. Revenue follows traffic, but only when the business proves it is invested in improving the lives of its audience.
We like to ask these three questions to businesses looking to improve the revenue from their online presence.
1. Someone is going to spend money with you three weeks from now. If they don't know you exist today, do you understand the path they will have taken to get to that point? Is that on accident, or have you designed that path?
2. Do you understand the steps you want your audience to take when they first arrive to your website? On every page and post, do you know what is the "next best click" for your audience?
3. Finally, do you know how to make them smile? Have you built anything that is going to make them smile? Do you understand the audience well enough that the headlines of your pages and posts give them goosebumps, make them smile or even laugh. When something inside us says "Yes, that's totally me" OR "Ha! I totally get that". . . we're more likely to share, click, tweet, like and buy. The language that we use to connect with the audience is the language that creates the wealth.
Q: How should companies assess what is a ‘profitable’ website? Or to ditch it for something that works.
A: Ditching a website and sometimes an entire Facebook presence is something we have recommended in the past, but typically because something negative has happened. For instance a company that practiced poor SEO strategies that resulted in penalties are often smarter to start over than to fight the beast. Would you rather swim up stream, or just get out and walk up the bank?
On Facebook we've seen companies who built huge Facebook fan pages based on artificial means like giveaways or viral videos that never involved a deeper relationship. A total of 50,000 fans and two comments is seen by Facebook as an irrelevant page. Conversely, on FindingJoyBlog on Facebook we have amassed 50,000 fans but regularly see 200,000 reach and slews of comments.
If we're not fighting the beast, then any site can be made to be profitable by focusing first on the reader. No one buys things against their will. Think about that. How many times have you gone to Amazon and begrudgingly bought a lamp you didn't want or need? That is the hurdle we must overcome. What do we do to make their lives better so they sleep in tents on the sidewalk overnight just to be first to buy what you're producing?
Q: Smaller businesses are often struggling to do a million other things. How can they minimise time spent on their websites, as well as make it a golden goose for the company?
A: The quandry that small businesses are busy doing a million other things and thus need to minimize their time on their website has built in assumptions that make the question impossible to answer as stated.
If I may, I would like to rephrase the question because it is indeed asked as it was posed here very often.
If I am a small business owner my only goal should be to create a revenue model that allows me to continue operating while supporting those working in the business.
Among my secondary goals should be maximizing revenue, giving to charity, teaching interns and reducing workload. Because without a solid foundation in the first place, we can never succeed at our secondary goals.
So the website question should be no different than any other revenue question within the company. Where do we spend our time and resources to gain the greatest return? For many the website is where we should spend our time to gain that return and thus the question is how do we minimize our time doing the other things so we can focus our time on the website?
As an illustration of that, think how much time you could spend on all the other things once you built a funnel to sell hundreds of your $9.00 ebook everyday. If you can spend $900 building it and reap 900 sales from the effort, why would we want to have minimized our time? (And think about how much labour is saved when your ebook is being purchased 24 hours per day online, while you're working on something else.)
So the question should be restated, “In what order do I, as a small business, work on my website along with all my other things? When do I get the most return from that investment?”
Dan Morris: Content is king if you know how to use it.
Q: Everyone’s talking about how content is king. What is an example of a good content?
A: “Content is King” has certainly been the mantra for a long time. And for some reason this has often led to the notion that either volume or quality has been the goal. And that has led to the pariah that we all need to be worried about content all the time. And that has just led to overall angst.
You can have 1,000 pages of text on your site and never make a dollar. You can have one page of awesome content on your site and never make a dollar. Conversely, my parent's site PorchIdeas.com has 400+ pages on the site and is very profitable, whilst many TV infomercial websites are just one page with a video header and they also can be quite profitable.
The only thing that matters is if you've given your audience what they want, in the manner that they'll consume it at the time they need it.
To execute that effectively, we need to thoroughly understand the buying process our consumer goes through before spending money with us. And that process is different for everyone. Think about the differences you and I undertake when buying a candy bar versus a commercial jet liner. Imagine what thought process must go into buying a $.99 ebook versus a $29.00 text book.
Every time someone pulls money out of their wallet they have to overcome little objections that have taken place in the back of their mind. What are those questions?
Exercise: If I asked you to buy from me right now. . . this very second. . . a Horse Chocolate Bar, would you? Without question?
What if I told you that the Charles H. Horse family has been making chocolate for 300 years? What if I added that they are a Swiss company? What if I added that this bar won the 36th Annual Belgium International Chocolate Symposium Award? And finally, what if I told you that until today, this chocolate has only been available to private guests of the CHH Rosington Castle in lower Switzerland?
Are you closer to buying? If that only took four sentences, do you have a clearer vision of what “content is king” means?
Because that is the first level of content infrastructure we need to have on our websites. That basic content infrastructure then becomes the place where we drive all traffic from our blog posts, videos, live speeches, tv commercials, guest podcasts and interviews.
Content is only king when we know what our audience needs to hear to help them make a decision they want to make, but don't have all the data to make the decision.
If after reading my four questions you still say no, aren't you more confident in saying that? And haven't we eliminated someone who really wasn't our target market in the first place?
Content is King . . . if you know how to use it.
Q: How important is having beautiful pictures? Videos? Is there an easy way to integrate that with other social media tools like Facebook/Instagram, Pinterest etc?
A: Typically this question would be answered by saying “You should. . . “ but we say it over and over again, “there is no should online”.
Beautiful pictures and videos are fantastic, draw attention, get likes, pins, tweets and shares. But when Boeing calls the Chancellor of Germany to talk about their newest plane, does a beautiful sunset shot of the plane landing create the sale faster than the architect's rendering?
And flip the model, do you like cookbooks without pictures or do you prefer the ones with great photos of every step of the process?
The articles Rachel Martin writes on FindingJoy.net are always accompanied by glorious photos and she has many posts with more than 100,000 Facebook likes. But those same articles are translated into other languages, reprinted on the Huffington Post and put into ebooks without the same images. Yet they do just as well. Do people -- because of the images posted on Pinterest -- stay for the content? Or do they come because of what ground work Rachel has laid in the mind's of her audience?
To give a blanket answer is to alienate the refrigerator repairman blogger who makes $1,000,000 per year with only stock photos of the fridges he repairs.
If imagery is important to your audience, as it is for fashion bloggers, Victoria's Secret and PinchofYum.com, then there are many, many ways to not only automate the distribution of the photos but to maximize the reach and networks they can get to. To get a taste of that, check out IFTTT.com
P.S. Boeing just happens to have an unbelievable community of plane lovers on their Flickr channel. They constantly post amazing photos of their planes to the smiles of their audience. Have they ever sold a plane because of that? Only they know.
Q: How did you get into the business of blogging/websites?
A: I came to into this business via the TV infomercial world. Having worked for a company that spent hundreds of thousands driving traffic from TV and Radio to the web gave me a first-hand crack at figuring out how to make them convert into customers.
That turned into jobs for other clients looking to improve their offline to online performance which turned into an opportunity to speak about conversion at a web marketing conference.
Shortly after the conference I got an email from a blogger who said after implementing the changes her husband was able to quit his job so they could work on their blog together. I realized that day that helping bloggers and small businesses make enormous changes to their businesses was much more satisfying than helping big companies improve conversion by three percent. For a full story I wrote about, check out Joel Comm's book “So What do You Do, Vol 1”.
Q: What would your advice be to other aspiring bloggers and content providers on how to keep the readers coming back?
A: Keeping the readers coming back takes two parts.
The first part is acquisition and the second part is pre-selling.
We go to a lot of work to produce content, tweets, Facebook updates, photos and videos. We should put an equal amount of effort into acquiring those viewers. There is nothing better than owning your own database so driving the traffic to an “offer” they would trade their email to get is ideal.
At the minimum we want to make it easy for them to subscribe, follow or join so we can get another shot at providing content they'll like. And ultimately another shot at acquiring their contact information.
When we have their contact information we get to bring them back to the site when we want them to come. This is the way magazines have operated for years. If magazines relied on customers to pick up the next issue while they are at the grocery store, they'd go out of business quite quickly.
The more important step in getting your audience to come back is your ability to pre-sell what's coming. You've seen this most often at movie theaters. Since movie theaters don't have subscription plans, they display “coming soon” signs to get people excited about coming back. As website owners, we also need to lead our audience by the hand and get them excited not only about what content we offer, but what is coming.
Q: What keeps you awake at night? What gets you to work in the morning?
I wish I had an exciting answer, but I sleep pretty well. I've got 4 kids that keep me busy. And on the other side, getting back to work always gets me up with a smile. So much to do. So much fun to be had.
Morris and Martin will be speaking at the following places:
Auckland: May 1 and 3, 8.30am till 4.30pm, The Grid, 132 Halsey St
Nelson May 7, 9.30am till 12noon, 132 Trafalgar St
Christchurch May 9, 9am till 4.45pm, 136 Wilsons Road, Waltham
To book go to: http://creativeagencysecrets.com/blogging-concentrated-nz/
Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).