5 Marketing and Branding Tips to Scale Your Online Business

busssssssssssssScaling an online business isn’t rocket science — it’s actually much easier than many people believe. When you combine a winning product or service and a solid foundation to build on, the sky’s the limit.Use these five simple marketing and branding tips to help you scale your online business and experience increased growth.

1. Make it ridiculously easy for your customers to buy your product or service.

It’s amazing how many businesses make prospects jump through multiple hoops in order to make a purchase — my own marketing agency was guilty of this as well, until recently. While our main offering is custom-tailored online-marketing consulting, we also offer several à la carte services.

The problem was that, previously, a prospect had to contact us via phone or our website to order one of these stand-alone services. When we did a little digging, we found that the majority of these inquiries didn’t require any selling — people simply wanted to make a purchase.

So, we made a switch, making it easy for prospects to purchase these à la carte services directly from our website. And the results have been great so far: Sales are up since we eliminated that previous hoop that a prospect once had to jump through.

Experiment with eliminating steps and making changes that create a ridiculously easy path to purchase.

2. Track every conversion metric humanly possible.

You have to know your numbers — if you don’t know, down to the penny, how much it costs you to generate leads and sales, you will crash and burn.

Cost-per-lead (CPL): You need to know how much it costs to generate every form of lead, from email submits to phone calls. A blended CPL won’t work — you need to be as specific as possible. If you are able to generate email leads for $1 each and phone leads are costing you $8 each, but converting at the same rate, wouldn’t it be wise to push all of your effort into producing more email leads?

Cost-per-sale (CPS): All of your data works together. For example, your conversion rates and cost-per-lead are going to help you determine what each sale is costing you. Business 101 tells us that if the CPS, plus cost of goods sold, is lower than the sales price, it’s profitable. But you need to dive a bit deeper. Where are you pulling the lowest CPS from? Can you open up the faucet to generate more sales from that avenue?

You need to also know what your different landing pages are converting at and where your top-performing lead sources are. You are never going to find a winning combination that you can “set and forget” — constant monitoring and optimizing are required.

3. Seek out media exposure to highlight your expertise.

Getting yourself and your brand out there is crucial if you want to scale. There are plenty of opportunities to score free media exposure if you are willing to put in a little work.

If you aren’t already registered with Help a Reporter Out, or HARO for short, do that now. With more than 35,000 journalists seeking insights from experts, there is a very good chance you will come across several exposure opportunities if you put in the effort. Consistency is key if you want to find success using this strategy.

HARO sends out three emails daily, full of opportunities. Many people read through them for a few days and then give up if an opportunity doesn’t fall into their lap. Don’t let this be you.

Instead, stick it out and put some effort into your responses — journalists receive hundreds of replies to each request, so you are going to need to stand out. Make sure you avoid making these stupid press outreach mistakes.

4. Set up email automation sequences to nurture, promote and convert 24/7.

Every type of business can use email automation. Restaurants can build a list that automatically sends out ecoupons for specials and discounts on notoriously slow days to drive foot traffic. Ecommerce stores can create segmented lists and send special offers to customers based on their previous purchase habits.

Information products can capture an email address and automatically market to that prospect, sending enticing information and discounts, until that prospect pulls out his or her credit card and converts.

Just like every other form of online marketing, email automation requires extensive split testing and constant optimization, but when you fine-tune your efforts, email automation creates a system that promotes, nurtures and converts sales 24/7 — even while you sleep.

5. Maintain consistent social media branding and cross promote.

Social media is such a powerful branding tool, and it’s important that you think about the big picture when establishing social accounts for your business. Using the same handle on every platform makes it easy for your customers to connect with you across all of the channels they are active on.

It will benefit you greatly if you use a handle that’s easy to remember and available on all of the networks you will be actively promoting on. For example, I use the same handle for my personal brand on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

You should also be cross-promoting your social media accounts in an effort to get your audience connected on as many platforms as possible. Someone following your brand on Twitter might not be connected on Facebook, which could be his or her preferred social network. A simple “Make sure to connect with us on Facebook” tweet could get people to like your Facebook page and then engage with a future Facebook post, leading to that hoped-for conversion.

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4 Formulas to a Successful Business

Small business drives the U.S. economy, and as more businesses pop up across the country entrepreneurs are searching for solutions to keep their particular business alive and ahead of the pack. Professional business advisors host seminars and write books about full-proof “formulas” that will make companies succeed. The following are 4 formulas that business advisors prescribe to keep companies on top.

External Solution Formula

This formula is probably the easiest way to grow a profitable company. The formula works when a client or customer purchase enough products at the right price so the business runs smoothly. This type of business makes profits quickly. They are easy to spot, and function due to a contract with one large dominant customer. However, the relationship between the business and the client only lasts for a short time.

Early Entrant Formula

Some believe this formula represents the best entrepreneurial opportunity. These businesses hope to be the first entrants in a specific market. That way, they can have a dominant presence in the market before others try to compete. When it works, the early entrant formula makes entrepreneurs vast sums of money.

Really-an-investment Formula

These businesses are just investments that investors spend money on to turn a profit. This formula will not work for most small businesses, as entrepreneurs want their companies to have long term potential. To make it work, you will need a lot of cash to invest.

The Secret Sauce Formula

This formula is for businesses that don’t fit into any particular category. There are some businesses out there that just work. In general, there is a strong leader with a cohesive strategy and smart decision making to drive success like: smart HR decisions, a great accounting system, creative problem solving, and so on.

First American Merchant (FAM) is the online lender that specializes in small business funding. FAM has the business loans and payment options your business needs. Start your application today to learn about fast, low hassle small business loans today. Contact First American Merchant (FAM) for working capital.

 

How to Turn Prospects into Customers with Your Landing Page

In Ultimate Guide to Local Business Marketing, Google AdWords expert Perry Marshall and lead generation expert Talor Zamir introduce you to the basic framework behind a successful local marketing campaign. In this edited excerpt, Perry and Zamir reveal how to create a landing page that will increase your conversion rate.

We’re sure you understand why a good landing page is so essential to your success, so let’s look at what a high-converting landing page should include. This information we’re sharing with you is the result of years of testing and millions of dollars in ad spend, and has proved successful across dozens of different local business verticals. It’s what we’ve found works the best for local businesses looking to get their phones ringing.

Header

The header is the section at the very top of your site. It should be relatively narrow because you don’t want it taking up too much of the all-important above-the-fold space at the top of your site.

There are just two things to include in the header: your logo, which goes on the far left side of the header, and a call to action, which goes on the far right side of the header.

This call to action should be in a fairly large font so it stands out and people can read it easily. For a local business, we almost always have the business’s phone number here.

However, don’t just put the phone number up there. Add a specific call to action above the phone number to give people a reason to call you. We recommend something like “Call Now for a Free Estimate/Consultation/Quote.”

Video or Image

Under the main headline, on the left side of the page, you should have a video or image. (This video or image could go either above or below the main headline. We’ve tried it both ways, and it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in conversion rates.)

The strategy for the image or video is pretty much like it is for the rest of the landing page: Put your best foot forward. You simply want something that looks professional and helps convey the benefits you offer. For a video, keep it on the short side: around a minute or a few minutes at the most.

For the image, make sure it’s relevant to your business. Ideally it’s a photo of you/your staff looking happy or one that visually shows the benefits your clients get from using your services.

Headline/Subheadline

Hands down, the headline is the most important copy on your landing page. It’s so important because it’s going to be the most read copy on the page and will largely determine whether your prospects pay attention to the rest of the page or simply hit the back button.

There’s no shortage of detailed information out there on copywriting and creating headlines. Most of them require you to think really deeply about this, come up with a customer avatar, think about a lot of theoretical stuff, come up with 100 ideas, etc. A lot of this information is really helpful; we’re not dismissing it at all. But our goal is to make things as simple and straightforward for you as possible.

Obviously we can’t write your headline for you — you’ll still have to do some thinking about this and at least come up with a list of your best benefits and main selling points. However, we’re going to share a headline template that’s proved to be successful on a number of landing pages we’ve created for clients.

Here’s the headline and subheadline template:

Would You Like to … (Insert Benefit 1, Benefit 2, Benefit 3)

If the answer is “YES,” then call us now for your free consultation and learn …

Let’s look at a few examples and then discuss this formula in more detail.

Here’s one for a title loan company:

Would You Like Fast Cash in 15 Minutes or Less With No Credit Check at the Lowest Rates in Las Vegas AND You Keep Your Car?

If the answer is “YES,” then call us now at (888) 555-5555, or come visit us at (location address).

For a mortgage broker:

Would You Like to Refinance Your Home to Today’s Low Rates and Lower Your Monthly Payments Even If You Owe More Than Your Home Is Worth?

If the answer is “YES,” then call now for your free consultation where you’ll discover. . .

One of the keys to the success of this headline template is putting your prospects in “Yes” mode, which psychologically makes them more likely to take you up on your offer.

At this point, your prospect will see the yes, so you’re getting them in a “yes” state of mind. That’s why we follow up with “If the answer is YES . . .” to build off them being in that state of saying yes, then we follow up with a call to action. That call to action leads into the promise of discovering the biggest benefit you offer prospects.

Body Copy/Bullet Points

This section goes under your headline and subheadline on the left side of the page and expands on the promise/offer/value proposition they started.

Most people aren’t going to read all your copy; they’re going to skim it. So a few short paragraphs are all you need along with three to five bullet points. Bullet points are a list of short, punchy sentences that convey the main benefits/key points that prospects should know about your business. Again, keep things short, sweet, and focused on the main benefits you offer your clients.

Contact Form

Not everyone who lands on your page is going to call. So for those who don’t want to call, the landing page should have a contact form where they can submit their information.

The form should have a clear call to action at the top that reinforces why they should contact you and what benefit they’ll receive for doing so. For the form itself, only ask for the information you absolutely need from a prospect — that’s generally a name, email address, phone number, and an optional “comments” field where they can enter any comments or questions they have.

You can also get creative with the button that a visitor needs to click to submit their information. You can use a generic “Submit” button or a more action/benefit-oriented button such as “Get Free Estimate” or “Get Free Consultation.”

The “Proof Zone”

The space under the contact form is a great place to demonstrate your business’s credibility. We call it the “Proof Zone” because the information here should help prove to your prospects that you are a credible and trustworthy business.

How do you do that? One common way is to provide testimonials from happy clients. Having these testimonials in the form of a video or audio clip is very powerful. A text testimonial with a photo is the next best option.

With testimonials, the more specific they are and the more they reinforce the main benefits of your business, the better. Here’s an example of a lame testimonial:

“These guys are great. I’m really happy with them.” — Joe

Compare that to this testimonial:

“Following my car accident three years ago, I’d experienced nearly constant chronic back pain. I tried physical therapy, pain meds, and a few natural remedies, and nothing helped. I visited Dr. Smith after a friend recommended her, and I’m glad I did. After six visits, I’m moving better than I have in years and am virtually pain free!” — Joe Williams, Seattle, WA

If you don’t have testimonials, there are plenty of other ways to demonstrate your business’s credibility. These include using logos of media outlets you’ve been featured on, logos of well-known clients, and/or special recognition/credentials/awards your business has received from industry/business organizations.

Another Call to Action

At the bottom of the page, below the fold, reinforce your call to action. Put your phone number there again so people don’t have to scroll up to find it. And again remind them of the benefit they’ll receive for taking action and contacting you.

Tiny Links at the Bottom of Your Landing Page

If it were up to us, there would be no links on your landing page because we want people focused on the one action we want them to take. However, since we’re advertising on Google, we need to keep them happy and follow their rules. And to satisfy Google’s terms and conditions, there need to be a few links on the page.

We place these, in a very small font, in the footer at the bottom of the page. The bare minimum you need to include here are links to a privacy policy, terms and conditions, and a contact page. The contact page exists so Google knows you’re a real business and should include both your phone number and your physical address.

5 Steps to Start an Online Business and Living a Much Better Life

As you’re reading this, customers all over the world are spending millions of dollars online. It’s estimated that 2.5 billion people log onto the Internet every day. We live in the Information Age, which has created new opportunities to start or build a business using the power and reach of the Internet.

While the opportunity is there, so is the competition. You can Google any topic and find at least a few entrepreneurs who are serving the market related to that topic. Whether you are growing an existing business through the Internet or starting an online business, you will have to stand out to thrive.

The Internet offers you the opportunity to create a business you love around the lifestyle you want. Operating a business that generates income from anywhere in the world no longer a fantasy. In fact, I’m writing this article on a flight from Maui to Panama. My business is making money as I fly. Here are five steps to create a profitable and successful online business.

1. Pick a profitable topic.

Choosing a topic is a hard enough task on its own. Making sure it’s profitable is where some entrepreneurs sabotage their chances. To create a business your customers have to be able to afford what you offer. Do your research on the profitability of a topic by seeing who serves that audience and how they’re doing.

Online entrepreneurship is generally a harmonious community. Entrepreneurs are likely to answer a few of your questions. If you can’t get any answers, Google always has a few. Make sure the earning potential is there before trying to generate revenue from that topic and audience.

Related: How to Make Money Online: The Basics

2. Create a strong foundation.

Your foundation online consists of your website, email list and social media following. There are many micro-aspects of an online business, but those are at the core. Your website needs to be simple and clean. You have a short window to capture someone’s attention. If your website is confusing, people will click off. Have the fewest pages possible. Have an “About” page that’s personal and connects the reader to your message and you as the entrepreneur.

Social media has billions of users, but the organic reach is next to nothing. You have to pay to reach your audience. Email marketing is still the best way to convert a lead to a customer. Build your email list by offering a small digital freebie to entice people to sign up. Create a presence on every social media platform, but don’t get caught up in the hype behind social media marketing. Use it only as one part of your overall strategy.

3. Build an engaged audience.

If your website and social media presence are a ghost town, you won’t draw people in and convert them into customers. Your goal is to build raving fans and followers that will tell everyone they know about you and your business.

You create that engagement by NOT delivering fluff-filled content. When you provide actionable value, people will become engaged and respond. Don’t buy fans or followers—it never creates engagement. Focus on connecting with an engaged group instead of trying to get big numbers. All of us have seen the entrepreneurs who have 30,000 Twitter followers but only get one retweet when they post.

Related: 5 Tools to Help Your Online Business Realize Its Full Potential

4. Create premium offerings.

A business means you have things to sell, and it’s no different in an online business. One of the nice features of an online business is that what you sell is digital. You can create books, guides, and courses. They can be offerings you create one time, and the work is done—you would then update from time to time. Create different types of programs and courses that help your audience, and use your email list to sell them. Make them actionable and packed full of valuable content.

5. Test and scale.

One of the best ways to know what works best for your business is to test what’s working and what isn’t. Be willing to change your strategy if you see it’s not effective. Don’t blindly follow popular advice just because someone got a certain result in THEIR business—it probably won’t work the same for you. When you have the right combination, scale your business.

Life is short. It’s too short to spend it creating a business that doesn’t give you the kind of lifestyle you want to live. Use the Internet and social media to grow or create a business that gives you freedom. The ability to generate income from your knowledge and through digital offerings is incredible.

There are many voices shouting for attention online. You stand out when you do things differently. Build a loyal and engaged following through authenticity. Deliver value that helps them solve their problems and struggles. It won’t take long for you loyal following to draw others in and your business to grow.

4 Key Reasons Local Businesses Fail When Using Google AdWords

In Ultimate Guide to Local Business Marketing, Google AdWords expert Perry Marshall and lead generation expert Talor Zamir introduce you to the basic framework behind a successful local marketing campaign. In this edited excerpt, Perry and Zamir offer four reasons why your Google AdWords campaign may be failing.

You’ve likely heard other business owners trashing Google AdWords as expensive, complicated, and ineffective. Good, let them! That just means there’ll be less competition for you.

AdWords does get a bad rap in many circles, and while clicks are expensive for most people and the interface complex, most of the time when advertisers get bad results, they only have themselves (or those they hire to manage their campaigns) to blame.

There are four main reasons local businesses fail with Google AdWords. Let’s cover them briefly here so you know what you’re in for.

1. No landing page or an awful landing page.

The first page a visitor to your site lands on after clicking on your Google ad is called the landing page. A landing page is an essential part of your AdWords campaign, and a good one can instantly double your leads from AdWords (without spending a penny more on clicks).

I recently clicked on an ad for a family law attorney. You’d think that would lead me to a site about family law, but instead, their home page was all about personal injury law. That’s not what I was looking for. Plus, it was an old, ugly-looking site that made it hard for me to find any information. When I finally found the page on the site about family law, it was a two-paragraph little blurb that basically said they’re certified by the State Bar in family law (don’t they have to be to even practice in the first place?).

Not having a dedicated, high-converting landing page is a huge mistake. Based on experience, we estimate the typical local business website converts somewhere around 5 percent. On the other hand, a better-designed landing page can easily convert at 10 percent to 20 percent.

Even if we assume it just converts on the low end — around 10 percent — versus the 5 percent for the typical website, you’d double the amount of leads you get for the same money spent. That means for every $1,000 you spend, instead of getting 10 leads, you’re now getting 20. That difference could literally make or break your month or year.

2. Horrible ads with low clickthrough rates.

Most Google ads say basically the same thing. (And, quite frankly, they’re not all that compelling in the way they say it.)

As with landing pages, a high-converting Google ad with a high clickthrough rate (CTR) can also instantly double your leads. And the best part is that Google rewards you for having high-converting ads. So not only will doubling your CTR get you twice as many potential leads, but you can also end up paying a lot less per click.

That’s because Google has an algorithm known as Quality Score that determines how much you pay for clicks. In AdWords, just because you bid the most for a keyword doesn’t guarantee your ad will show up in the top position. Google rewards relevancy. And if you can show Google your ad is more relevant than your competitors (and CTR is the number-one factor used to determine relevancy), you can end up ranking higher than your competitors, yet pay less per click than they do.

3. No conversion or call tracking.

We’ve seen that 60 percent to 70 percent of the leads for local businesses come in the form of a phone call. Furthermore, phone call leads tend to be higher-quality leads because someone who’s really a hot lead is most likely going to pick up the phone and call rather than just submit the information through a form on your website.

If you’re not tracking call conversion, then you’re missing out on not only 60 percent to 70 percent of your leads, but also your hottest leads. Not tracking call conversions also means you’re not going to be able to optimize your AdWords campaign well. You can throw a ton of money away on bad clicks if you’re not tracking calls and have the data that shows you which keywords and ads are making the phone ring and which ones are not.

4. Poor campaign structure.

With all the AdWords books, articles, and training courses available, it’s somewhat surprising we even have to mention this. However, we still see AdWords campaigns every week that are set up poorly (many times by agencies that should know better) and don’t even adhere to basic best practices.

One example of poor campaign structure is a single campaign that runs on both Search and Display Networks. Search and Display are two utterly different beasts, and they should never be lumped together in a single campaign (in fact, we urge you to avoid using the Display Network to advertise your local business, until you develop strong AdWords chops and seek additional training). Other examples include only having one ad group, having too many keywords, and going too broad with the keywords in your campaign.

AdWords may not work all the time for every local business — there are some situations where due to high click costs, budgets, internal sales problems, or other issues that even a well-structured AdWords campaign won’t generate a high enough ROI. However, in our experience, that’s the exception much more often than the rule.