Elayne Whitfield, BA, MVA ~ VA Industry ExpertSubscribe Now

Content Marketing: How Sales-Oriented Should Your Content Be?

Content Marketing - How Sales OrientedIn the world of online marketing, two very different crafts are often confused: content writing, and copy writing. Although they are mostly confused in name only, sometimes the actual text gets mixed up too. One especially guilty group when it comes to this mistake is article marketers who often introduce unnecessary sales copy into their content writing. On the flip side, generic content is frequently put into sales copy by accident, drastically reducing its effectiveness.

Online marketing success demands an ability to differentiate between the two. While copy and content both have their proper places, it is rare that they go together, and it can be quite detrimental to a promotional article if they are used improperly. This simple guide explains how to balance sales copy and promotional content, and where to use each of them in your marketing efforts.

Incorporating Sales Content into Articles

It is best to keep direct sales, and sales related talk to a minimal throughout any promotional article. Although the purpose of a promotional article is not necessarily to inform the reader, it is certainly not to sell to them straight away either. If the reader is sold on a product right there in the article, where will they click to buy the product?

Save the sales copy for your landing or sales page. You can always incorporate pre-sales copy into a promotional article, but even then it shouldn't have an overwhelming presence. The purpose of a promotional article is to achieve one thing – get the reader to your landing page with a slight intention to buy in their minds. If your articles are not accomplishing this, you need to work on flow and content, not sales copy.

Where to Start the Pre-Selling:

The basic structure of any article, or really any written text, is introduction-discussion-conclusion. The first section of your promotional article should introduce a problem, a situation, or an opportunity to your reader. Once you have established this, move on to the body of the text. What is going on in this situation? How could this opportunity translate to the life of the reader? Where are the best places to find these opportunities?

Once you have established and discussed all that you can, introduce a potential solution for the reader; your solution. Do not jump to selling the idea straight away -- that is the job of your sales copy -- but push the reader slightly so they feel like moving towards it. It is not your job to sell them in the article, only to get them to click on your link.

The Transition from Pre-Sell to Actual Selling:

Your content should work in tandem with your copy to make the sale. Before you start marketing any product through a promotional article, familiarize yourself with the sales page and landing pages that you will be leading readings to, to the point where you can seamlessly incorporate their points into your writing.

People generally love familiarity and trust, not unknown situations. When you can design an article to convince a potential customer into moving to your sales page, and have them arrive there full of confidence and intrigue, you have found article marketing success.

Click here for your copy of my ebook "Straightforward Strategies for E-commerce Success" a great guide full of ideas and practical tips to get you started and on the path to e-commerce success!

Five Ways to Monetize a Mailing List

5 ways to monetize your mailing listSuccessful marketing plans require creativity. The most creative marketers, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople are almost always the most successful as creativity is what separates you from the pack. Email marketing may offer security and long-term income, but it is nothing without an effective and creative platform for monetizing it.

These five options take different approaches to monetizing email traffic and all offer the potential for outstanding results. No matter how your business operates, these five strategies can help you boost income and increase orders.

 1) Sell affiliate products.

A popular method in the online marketing world since the late 1990s, affiliate marketing brings the potential for profit more than any other strategy. In exchange for potential clients, affiliates are paid for every sale that is generated.

The business of email marketers puts them in a unique position to be wildly successful with online affiliate programs. With a trusting and value-added email marketing list, even a slight mention of an affiliate product can generate sales for the advertiser; sales that mean valuable commission income for yourself.

 2) Drive leads directly to clients.

There are countless businesses out there that, while lacking an official affiliate program, would happily pay you for incoming business leads. If your email marketing efforts are focused in specific markets, you could contact businesses in these markets directly and offer leads to them.

From real estate agents to simple product-based businesses, almost all local, national, and international businesses are interested in generating more sales, and with the valuable leads that you bring them, you could collect a substantial commission. Refine your business-to-business sales pitches, get on the phone, and get to work earning directly from local businesses.

 3) Market your own products and services.

It is one thing to take a commission from another business, but it’s an entirely different game when you’re making 100% of the profits from your own product sales. With a minor time commitment, you could have your own eBook to sell, your own utility to market, or your own coaching program to advertise for. Rather than taking just a portion of the returns from someone else's product sales, apply your creativity to your own business and create a way to market to your email subscribers directly.

4) Ask for client or customer referrals.

The success of referral-based businesses is evident all over the internet. Zappos, a leading online shoe store, generates business almost entirely through word of mouth marketing efforts and customer referrals. By offer focusing primarily on their incredible customer service, their email subscribers spread the word to their friends which expands Zappos' marketing power and their audience size.

It’s simple, ask your email list for client or customer referrals. If you market to people who are seen as authorities in your target market, you could very well end up with an endless stream of referral sales and contracts.

5) Send subscribers to Adsense-powered websites.

Although sending subscribers to an Adsense-powered website is unlikely to earn you more than a few dollars per email, it can be a good way to test websites before they are officially launched. With a few quick split-testing scripts, a small list of hundreds of prospective customers and visitors can be the perfect testing resource for a pre-launch website or commercial online property.

Common Mobile Marketing Mistakes

Common mobile marketing mistakesThe landscape of internet use is dramatically changing. Mobile sales are outstripping PC sales, over half of social media users are doing so from mobile devices, and approximately half of your audience is using mobile devices to read their emails. Because of this rapid and substantial change many marketers are making serious mistakes when approaching their mobile audience. Thankfully, you can avoid these issues if you just think ahead.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

Creating Complicated Opt-in Processes

You can always get more information from customers later, but creating an easy and streamlined opt-in process greatly appeals to mobile users. When a customer is using a finger instead of a keyboard to click boxes and type in information, they will become frustrated if the procedure is too complicated or lengthy. Make it easy; remember that less is more.

Not Ensuring Links Work for Mobile

When you send any email link it needs to be able to be read on a mobile device because you need to assume that’s where readers will be viewing it. Can the user click through easily? Does the website work well using any device? Can the user get around the navigation?

Not Being Targeted in Your Actions

When you send out a message or put out content, know why you’re doing it and who will be seeing it. You can use your email and website metrics to determine which devices your audience uses so that you can ensure that any device can access your info.

Not Understanding Laws, Rules, and Regulations

Like with most things to do with marketing, there are laws, rules, and regulations that need to be followed. Ensure that you become familiar with these laws so that you don’t break any of them and make things more difficult for yourself than they need to be. Opt-in regulations and privacy concerns are important to most people so they should be to you too.

Using Too Much Text for the Space

Remember the size of most mobile devices is about 3.3 inches of space. If that small space is overrun with text and your user has to scroll sideways forever to read all the content, they’re going to get frustrated and give up fast. There are ways to optimize your content within the code to ensure that it automatically adjusts based on the device your audience is using.

Not Creating Ongoing Value for Customers

As important as access is, creating value is equally essential. If you’ve created an app for example, if you don’t want to lose your customer, one way or another you’ll need to remind them about the app by offering updates, extensions, and more. The value of a long-term customer cannot be underestimated so keep them engaged with your product.

Building an App without a Plan for Marketing

Apps are a great way to get involved in the mobile marketing landscape. That being said however, creating an app is like creating a whole other business and it comes with new responsibilities. You not only need to create the app in a way that people enjoy using it, but you also need a marketing plan if you want it to be successful.

Not Having Clear Calls to Action

Once you know the purpose of a message that you want to send out, it’s imperative that you craft clear calls to action. Sometimes you may need to test different CTAs to find out which ones work best for your audience.

Treating Mobile as a Separate Entity

While mobile is a huge platform and should be considered by anyone who wants to market online today, it’s also important to remember that mobile devices are simply tools for users to access your content. Much like different browsers, different devices have different code requirements. Thankfully though, by using HTML5 and responsive coding, you can make your websites work for all devices seamlessly.

Avoiding these common mobile marketing mistakes will help you become a winner in the online marketing game. Don’t ignore the statistics of a changing environment when bringing your marketing campaigns into the present. Gear yourself towards mobile or you’re going to be leaving money on the table.

Conditioning Your Prospects and Customers

Conditioning your prospects and customers

When you’re looking to market to prospects and build relationships with existing customers, it’s important to stay in touch with them as often as possible. Get them on your email lists and segment them according to where they are in the buying cycle so that they can be targeted by your messages accordingly. Consistent communication can go a long way for conditioning customers to trust you and think of your business whenever they are in need of your services.

Tell Them What to Expect

Whenever anyone buys from you or signs up for your email list send them a thank you note with an explanation of what to expect from you in the future. How often will they hear from you? What will you contact them about? Make some promises and assurances to them.

Do What You Say You’ll Do

It’s very important that you do whatever you said you were going to do. For example, if you say you will send them a newsletter every Monday, send them a newsletter every single Monday and never on any other day. If you skip or switch the days they may get confused. A lot of people will actually forget they signed up for a list and when you don’t stay active they will report you for spamming them.

Remind Them of What You Said

Periodically, be sure to remind your prospects and customers about your previous promises and assurances. This will help them remember who you are and will build trust.

Let Them Know When You Follow Through

When you do something you said you would do, tell them. “I told you I would send you an update on my xyz product and as promised, here it is.” Again, this reinforces the point that you stick to your word and can be trusted.

Ask Them for Input and Opinions

Once in a while invite your prospects and customers to submit their ideas and input. If you have a new product idea, tell them about it. Ask them what they think. Ask them what they’d pay for such a product or service. Ask them if they would like to see something from you that you do not currently offer.
Tease Them about New Products – Never pass up an opportunity to give them some hints or small bits of information on a new product, service, or event. As you hint about it, make them really want it by explaining what’s in it for them.

Thank Them for Buying

When someone buys something from you (or answers any call to action), be sure to thank them. A ‘thank you’ is always a nice thing to do, plus it gives you a little bit of extra space to provide them with more information about you and your products and/or services.

Follow Up Regularly

Even after someone has purchased and you’ve thanked them, it’s not over. It costs a lot less to create a repeat buyer than it does to turn a lead into a new buyer. On top of that, repeat buyers are more likely to make larger purchases than first time customers. Cultivate your relationship with buyers even more consistently than you do leads and prospects.

Most people need to hear things multiple times before it sinks in so stay consistent with your messages. The more you stick to your word and the more value you can provide to your audience, the more they’ll look forward to whatever you offer them.

Permission Marketing: How to Market Ethically Through Email

Permission Marketing - How to Market Ethically Through eMailMarketing in general often raises ethical questions and subjective interpretations of what is right and wrong. From online marketing to face-to-face and traditional direct mail marketing; advertisers, businesses, and marketers have always had to walk a relatively clear, well-defined line. On one side: ethical business -- opt-in lists that let people opt out just as easily, buyer-friendly sales tactics, generous return policies, and a desire to build trust. On the other: unethical business -- aggressive marketing, unfriendly tactics, and a short-term business mindset.

While marketers are often branded as the latter, most are very ethical and buyer-focused. Marketing depends on repeat business, and the most effective online businesses know that satisfied customers, clients, and participants are exactly what they need to ensure that customers return to them in the future. Returning customers spend money, are very easy to deal with, and are often the most profitable and valuable customers available. Rather than focusing on the short-term, most smart marketers are intensely focused on the long-term potential of establishing customers who will keep coming back to them.

Email marketing is one of the most popular and trusted forms of online marketing but it, too, draws the same kind of ethical questions. Spam is a major problem online and it hurts responsible email marketers more than anyone else. Just like short-term offers and unfriendly tactics hurt the rest of the marketing and direct sales world, massive spam marketing efforts have affected legitimate email marketers more than they have the spammers.

When Email Marketing Becomes Spam

The word ‘spam’ gets thrown around so often that it’s easy to lose track of what it actually means. Spam is not sending targeted messages to interested buyers, but rather it is sending too many emails to too many people who never asked to be contacted. Unfortunately, many email marketers overestimate the value of their email updates and cross over into the latter category. This short-term focus might lead to rapid sales and quick product uptake, but it leaves little in terms of long-term potential and establishing a reputable brand name.

How to Market Ethically Through Email

Provide value, don’t just offer what your business is selling. Whether you are providing tips and advice through email or merely interesting content, you have an obligation to provide value to your prospective customers before you expect it from them.  Marketing guru Seth Godin is fond of a specific term, one that he coined himself. He calls effective email marketing “permission marketing” and defines it as marketing that has the audience's permission to be received. Permission marketing is always more effective than its alternatives over time, and is a real boost for return customers, repeat clients, and long-term arrangements.

Why Permission Marketing is Best for Customers and Marketers

Marketers are human. Despite the overwhelming (and somewhat alarming) belief that marketing plans are thought out in a harsh corporate office, most marketing plans are pieced together by people that are just as susceptible to marketing as the audiences they target. Marketing is about trust, and consent is the basis of all trust.

When your email marketing becomes spam, every transaction is temporary and short-term. Customers appear, but they never stay. When your email marketing is based on permission – namely deep and value-providing permission – customers appear and keep appearing. As both a long-term marketing platform and a low-maintenance marketing method, permission email marketing provides more results, less work, and greater returns for your business than any unethical approach can provide.

There’s just something unappealing about the spam approach that cannot be rectified by any amount of other positive business practices. If you want to establish your business and your brand, focus on the long-term and use permission marketing; it will be worth it.

Three Reasons to Market Through Email AFTER You Sell

3 Reasons to Market Through EMail After You SellFor years, email marketing has been a pre-purchase exercise. Marketers spent almost all of their resources on acquiring customers before selling to them, rather than reaching out to customers after the sale. While this method is obviously effective, it is by no means the be-all and end-all of marketing forms.

After the worldwide recession hit in 2008, businesses everywhere responded by cutting their marketing budgets. Advertising expenditures plummeted, global marketing presences were almost eliminated, and sales-focused businesses found themselves running out of buyers. In a new environment of business, companies began turning to uncharted methods to attract customers, leading eventually to an expansion of the email marketing world.

Today, the focus on size over substance is clearly present in almost every form of marketing, from offline resources to online marketing tactics. Marketers brag about their mailing lists, touting millions of readers, all the while ignoring the fact that each reader is almost completely valueless. Despite their massive size, these marketing lists are largely pieced together and almost completely devoid of any post-purchase subscribers.

The money is, as they say, most certainly in the lists, it's just not in any list. The most valuable marketing resources and the targets of any serious email marketer are the attention of any prospective customer that can, will, and has bought before. Once you have overcome the initial sale, repeat business is as simple as creating additional marketing resources to stay engaged with the customer.

Sometimes it is best to forego the short-term subscription and focus on customers that are ready to buy. Before you start an all-inclusive marketing list, consider these three reasons to keep your list exclusive and limited to customers that have already bought from you before.

  1. Post-purchase marketing gives you authority through established trust: It is easier to sell a $1000 product to a current customer than it is to sell a $20 product to someone you barely know. Commerce, especially online commerce, is all about building trust and establishing authority. Build trust with a small initial sale and you will give yourself an avenue for larger, more profitable future transactions.
  2. Customers qualify themselves. Prospects require your qualification: Marketing to new customers is an uphill battle. You are constantly re-evaluating your assumptions to appeal to possibility and quite often they can fail to be worth your time. The vast majority of pre-purchase prospects turn out to be duds and the few that buy from you are typically the types of customers that would buy from you on their own anyways. Focus on fostering qualified customer connections, not indiscriminate and valueless connections coming from anywhere.
  3. Post-purchase marketing is exclusive and value-adding: Exclusivity is a currency in itself. Marketers have forever capitalized on the “exclusive offer” strategy, offering each customer a one-off opportunity that is available to almost everyone else. While many are content with false exclusivity, true exclusivity gives you a marketing opportunity that is almost completely unparalleled.

The internet, especially over the last few years, has given marketers intense power to undervalue and skim over  personal relationships with customers. It has become all too easy to send a generic  template email to all contacts instead of differentiating previous purchasers versus prospects. A focus on true exclusivity and one-on-one treatment goes a long way in the world of template emails and form letters, and will be appreciated by your clients, customers, and business contacts.