How To Stop Selling and Start Educating.

I’ve just completed a workshop teaching branding to graphic design firms from Canada and the United States. As part of that training, confidence in selling is a crucial element in delivering branding 10587534_sto their customers. On the surface it would appear that selling is a crucial first step. “Selling” is a difficult skill for many of us – myself included. It’s something I work at tirelessly. Defining my brand and working at it is one part of my overall branding strategy. To me selling is a bit of a misnomer. I don’t so much sell, as participate in a conversation. This conversation involves engaging the potential customer is a discussion about their brand challenges and understanding just what it is that hinders it.

Sometimes the barriers are self-generated. These are things such as culture or negative past histories. We all know people who get in the way of themselves simply because they don’t believe they have what it takes to deliver on a desire. That lack of confidence holds them back. Other barriers are market driven like bad economies, dying industries etc.

I recommend to businesses they should immediately change the conversation and watch opportunities present themselves. Customers cringe at the thought of someone selling something to them. Whereas they embrace conversations that help them. They also enjoy talking about themselves. I often enter into conversations where i am providing entry level branding advice on the spot. This is a great opportunity for me to show how fast I am on my feet, and how confident I am in what I do by my willingness to share. It’s no different than when in a networking situation – the wisdom is that you give before you get.

Challenge your comfort zones. Drive yourself to succeed. Don’t let the words “it’ll never work” or the “time just isn’t right” ever pass your lips. I believe confidence comes from challenging yourself and believing that customers really do find you a source of value. An expert lies within all of us. Don’t trap yourself by assuming you know how others think of you. Sometimes that blank stare isn’t that they can’t believe how stupid you are but it is more, they are pondering the brilliant thing you just exposed them to, and they’re wondering how they can use that nugget to their advantage. I experienced that last thought more times than I can image when speaking to groups of people at a speaking event or in a sales meeting. Lack of confidence makes you think the worst. But when you believe in what you’re saying, those blanks stares are gold mines to opportunities.

It makes me smile to realize that the quietest person in the room is actually your biggest advocate. The word ASSUME feeds on a lack of confidence and is the biggest killer of opportunity. When you assume the worst – worst is what you get. It’s not a hard concept to understand. Because I am aware that I have a difficult timing reading people, I have learned not to assume what lies before me. I often watch that person closer and give them time to react to what I’m saying and I’m often rewarded. All of this within the confines of a conversation on branding. I don’t think you can sell branding as much as you can build a hunger for more knowledge. Satisfying that hunger is something even the most shy can deliver. Imparting knowledge is enjoyable and the thanks awarded following such an exchange doesn’t feel disingenuous or contrived.

Trust in your experience. There lies the root of your confidence, and with that powerful conversations await you!

Online Advertising How To Crash Course

To grow, every business needs new leads and new customers. Without a steady incoming flow of new customers, you would hit a plateau and eventually decline. There are different ways of achieving that but the quickest is to advertise. Doing it online means you get results faster. So how do you do it? Read on for a quick online advertising how to crash course. Let’s begin.

Online Advertising How To Crash Course

Who Are You Advertising To?

Do you know? Everybody is not an acceptable answer. While each online advertising marketplace you use will have their own target market options, you still need to clarify this up front. It’ll save you some time digging around later on and definitely make it easier for you as you navigate the different advertising marketplaces. So paint yourself a picture of your ideal customer.

  • Are they 30 – 40 year old men?
  • Women?
  • Do they have children?
  • What do they like to read?
  • What do they like to watch?
  • What is their idea of entertainment?
  • What other interests might they likely have?
  • What stage of life would they likely be in?
  • What could be their next lifetime milestone – e.g. Getting married, having a baby, children going to college, retirement.

Some people tell you, to only have one clearly defined target group. Personally, I think that depends on your product. Some of us have products that appeal to different types of people. They may consume your product differently, and even buy for different reasons. They are still a target group. So define these groups if they apply.

Who Are Your Competitors?

You may think it strange to think about competitors for advertising. Truth is, this just goes to show how far online advertising has come. You want to list out your competitors because in most ad marketplaces, you can target your ad to people who follow or are interesting in your competition. This is a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of. So know who your competitors are. Brainstorm and list as many as you can. Consider also indirect competitors.

Prepare Your Advertising Materials

Again, each online advertising marketplace will have their own requirements but there are a few things you can prepare ahead of time. Among the key things, is your core advertising message. What exactly are you advertising?

Are you promoting a sale? Do you want people to opt-in to your mailing list? Sign up for a webinar? Install an app? Pick up the phone to call you? Complete a survey? Download a cheat sheet?

Once you know this, then you can create some ads. For banners, this is somewhat easier because popular sizes are uniform across the Internet. For text ads, prepare a few variations since each channel will have different word count limit so you need to have some flexibility.

It would seem obvious, but in case it isn’t, prepare your landing pages. Make your landing page deliver or match up to your ad’s promise. Consider – what would you expect to see if you were clicking through your ad? Do everything you can to make it easy for people to take the next step so you’re maximizing your ad spend.

Locate Ad Marketplaces

Now comes the fun part. Placing your ads, but first, you need to know where. Here are some great places to get started.

Many of these places make it really easy and it’s all self-serve. Some may also assign a rep to help you. The actual steps differ from one network to another. In general, what you need to do is create an account, select your target and enter/upload your ad.

More Online Advertising How To Resources

Is it really that simple? The short answer is yes. However, this isn’t called a crash course without reason. There are a multitude of things that have been simplified and in some marketplaces, you have to make sure you’re playing by the rules or get kicked out. To cover those, this post could end up as book.

Thankfully, we don’t have to because some fantastic online advertising how to resources already exist. If you’re committed to advertising and want to make sure you don’t waste time nor money, check out the Bring Your Own Traffic course.

You Will Be Shocked When You See These Landing Page Test Results

Many of us (even strong willed entrepreneurs, sometimes) wish for someone to simply tell us what works, what to do, where to go.

It’s not because we are lazy – although it could be the reason sometimes. No, I personally believe it’s not our character flaw but our human nature. When we get overwhelmed and not sure what to do next. When we get confused. When we are afraid or unsure of our next steps. When we are tired or burnt out. That’s when a “here do this” solution is so attractive.

No wonder information products abound and probably won’t ever die. Small wonder too blog posts everywhere are full of tips and best practices. Not saying these don’t work. Following a trusted and proven source’s advice is better than running around blindly, or worse – doing nothing. However, it’s always a good thing to try it out for yourself and try out different ways – based on what you know of your market.

Test it yourself.

Wow, did I despise that piece of advise for a long time. But it’s true. What works for others may not work for you..

This is exactly what Joanna Wiebe talked about in her post about “best practices” at Unbounce. She shows us some copy written on best practices and advice and follows with test results that will surprise you.

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How to Design an Effective Opt-in Page

Sometimes called a squeeze page, designing an effective opt-in page is an important part of converting all your traffic from leads to customers. If you don’t have a high converting squeeze page, you’ll miss out on a lot of new customers no matter how much traffic is sent your way.

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Target the Right Audience

If you’ve done your research then you’ve chosen a specific persona or target audience in which to direct your opt-in page. You cannot build an effective opt-in page if you’re trying to target more than one type of person with your content. Reducing the number of people you appeal to, rather than trying to attract a broader audience, may sound counterintuitive. But the truth is, the more laser targeted your opt-in page, the better. Don’t worry; you can create more than one.

Example: You guest blog for XYZ blog. In your bio box you include a link to a special squeeze page, instead of sending that unique audience to the same generic squeeze page as everyone else.

Craft Excellent Design

Designing a squeeze page requires an understanding of color palettes as well as how people read online. Online, people scan from top to bottom rather than reading from left to right when they first see the page. Keep that in mind and ensure that you have excellent navigation, with fewer choices than a typical website, and that the colors are easy on the eyes. A light background with darker lettering and a color palette of three to four colors is your best choice. It’s nice if your opt-in page matches the product that you’re selling.

Create a Strong Headline

When it comes to squeeze pages, headlines matter. If you use an overly clever headline, some people will be put off by it. If you choose a headline that is direct, to the point, and tells in a nutshell what this page is about, you’ll develop trust quickly from your readers. The headline must address the interests (or problem) of the target audience, be good news to them (you’re going to solve their problem), pique their curiosity (hook them in), and make it all simple, easy, and fast that also saves them something like time and money.

Add in an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Whether it’s a free offer, or a paid offering, make the deal so good that they can’t refuse. If you’ve targeted your audience in an appropriate way, the offer will resonate with them. Moving them from lead to subscriber will help you build your list so that you can provide value to them later, and over time. Make it clear about the value you will provide them, the problems you’ll solve, and the advantages of being a member of your list or buying your products.

Create Obvious CTA Buttons

Your sign up buttons, or buy buttons, need to be very obvious. You can create awesome sign up forms with Aweber, and Buy Now Buttons using Amember.com, Clickbank.com, and other services. Using the available software, the fewer fields you have in your form, the more likely you are to get someone to sign up. Your call to action (CTA) is very important and needs to be clear to your audience. Your buttons can say something aside from “submit,” “buy now,” or “subscribe”. You can make them say more such as “Give me my free video now”, or “Hell yea, I want my free eBook.” Whatever text or message your audience will respond to is what should be on your buttons.

Create Responsive Opt-in Pages

Today, people access the Internet via mobile devices more than they do personal computers. What a shame if your opt-in pages won’t work on mobile devices. By using responsive design and tools that allow for responsive design, you can avoid those issues. After all, you only have one chance, and only a few seconds, to get your audience’s attention and trust. Don’t lose them due to this issue.

Don’t Forget the Download / Thank You Page

The design you create for your download or thank you page should be as thought out as your opt-in page. Every aspect of the process should be very well thought out with your audience in mind.

Create a Pretty URL

Many times a squeeze page will have its own domain name, or you can create it as a new page on your website then use domain masking to save on hosting fees.

This works like this: Create a new page on one of your websites to house the opt-in page, so the URL might look like this:

Yourdomainname.com/offeryoucantrefuse. This isn’t that pretty.

Instead you can spend 10 bucks on a new domain name – one that represents the list or product you’re selling – then using the procedures right where you create your domain name, such as GoDaddy to mask the look of the domain without paying for additional hosting. Just go in and paste the link to your opt-in page by clicking manage domains > nameservers > manage >add forwarding. Then paste in the URL that leads to your opt-in page, then choose “forward with masking.”

Now when someone clicks the link to your opt-in page they will see what looks like a dedicated website, which often is perceived as more professional. You can also use a shortening service like bitly.com or Google URL Shortener.

Finally, practice makes perfect. Test out different opt-in pages, different forms, different buttons, and different headlines to find out what works best for your audience. Keep track of the metrics so that you can analyze what works.

Appearing To Do The Right Thing is The Wrong Thing in Branding

confusedHow many companies can you think of that tout customer service, great pricing, guarantees and transparency? They supposedly embrace social media and pretend to get the benefit of the web. They absolutely want their customers to know they love them. They expend a great deal of time and money trying to convince the great unwashed that they are the genuine article. They appear to be doing all the right things. The tricky word here is “appear.”

They appear to be doing all the right things.

Like any brand, it’s not enough to “appear” to be doing anything. To do so would be a HUGE injustice to your stakeholders. I can’t tell you the number of companies who tell me they’re on Linkedin but haven’t the faintest idea what to do there. They’re there because, “everybody told them they’ve got to be there.” They tout customer service because that’s what everyone wants right? Sure – but ask them what they do to facilitate great customer service and the real truth is, it’s written on the website and brochure but there are no systems in place to deliver.
Saying it seems to be enough. Ask anyone what differentiates them and most will say, “our customer service.” I’ve experienced this first hand. Being a branding guy, you can appreciate this is one of the first things I want to know about when first exposed to a new company in a networking situation or some other venue.

My favourite was one guy who had a guarantee on his marketing. His tout was, “Great service – guaranteed!” Wow! Two promises in one line. I asked him what was the guarantee if he failed to deliver great service. He said in all seriousness, “They can go somewhere else.” Now that’s shallow. That’s what you get if he fails!? Maybe he should reword his position and tell the truth – Satisfaction guaranteed or you can go somewhere else.” Are you sold? This guy wasn’t trying to be a smart ass. He genuinely believed that his guarantee was justified.

It “appeared” to do the right thing. No risk, no expectation to sacrifice should he fail at his promise to deliver. Thank heavens for the brand. Since it’s your reputation, the brand indirectly protects the public from less than ethical businesses. It’s no wonder most purchases are made on the recommendation of friends and colleagues. It’s one of the reasons why social media is so effective at defending and advocating great brands. Screw up and suffer the wrath of social media. “Appearing” be embracing social media shows a major weakness with this scenario.

If you want your brand to flourish and stand for more than what you do, it’s time to stop appearing to do something and start participating in it. Have a brand strategy that uses all channels to push your brand. This is taking control of your brand. Seems like an obvious statement doesn’t it? It’s a simple statement that’s for sure, but it comes with a large commitment. To control your brand you must put out a ton of effort. Sometimes it’s going to feel thankless. It will absolutely define your brand. There is an alternative however – and that’s to “appear” to be doing something. Nobody but your competition will thank you for that move.

Your competition LOVES to define what your brand stands for. They’ll thank you and all they ask in return is a little market share.

It appears to be you move.

8 Steps to Creating a Compelling “About Us” Page

When someone clicks through to your “about us” page they’re looking to connect to you in a completely different way than if they click on any other page of your website. They are genuinely seeking to know how your company can solve their issues or fulfill a promise made. They want to see what makes your company (and you) tick.

8 Steps to Creating a Compelling About Us Page-060514

Your about page is a balancing act that requires you to focus on your target audience even while you are talking about yourself and your business. It depends upon your ability to speak with humility while understanding the words that your audience wants to read. In addition, crafting a compelling about page necessitates the use of just the right words that trigger your audience’s emotions; making them smile, cry and laugh.

Tell Your Story  

The content on your about us page is very important. Sadly, it’s often created once and never looked at again. Most about pages include a title, content about the business, images, social media links, and a way to contact you. But, the about us page is a huge opportunity to tell your story. Use this space to tell your entire story in such a way that it puts the audience first.

For instance: You don’t “Create Widgets or Perform XYZ Service” instead you  are passionate about saving your customer time or thrilled when you bring people together and create solutions to problems. If you focus the story about the solutions you provide and the problems you solve for your audience you’ll be able to tell your story in a way that resonates most with them.

Show Your Story

The great thing about the web is that you don’t simply have to tell your story, you can show them with examples and stories of other clients and customers within your about page that helps tell different parts of your story. Using testimonials can make your about page become more interesting and compelling. Weave the stories throughout the page, or make a special section for customer stories.

Additionally, a very important copywriting technique to learn is the idea of showing not telling. You want the reader to experience your story through their senses in such a way that they actually can feel what you feel and even smell what you smell. Include enough detail in your writing to evoke those feelings by using words that the audience will resonate with. To truly show your story you have to have an intimate understanding of your audience and use that understanding through the content you include on your about page.

Use Strong Images

Graphics, photography and even video can add to or take away from your about page. You don’t want images to distract your reader, but you do want the images to relate to and further explain what you are sharing. Share images of yourself, your staff, and even your location if it’s relevant. Also share images of the product or the results of the service.  The more you use the right images to impart information on your about page, the clearer your message will become.

Differentiate Yourself

Use your about page to further differentiate yourself from your competition. Study your competitions’ about pages. What do they include, exclude, and what type of words do they use? How do you feel when you read it? How does the information provided match up with the product and / or services they offer? How can you be different and show your differences through your about page?

Connect With Your Audience

Many business owners make a big mistake with their websites. They make it difficult for visitors to connect with them.  Include your social media network links on your about us page, as well as your contact information. Put that information on the page in such a way that visitors will not miss it.

Aside from connecting that way, ensure that the words that you use connect you with your audience. While you will include some sales page elements into your about page in the form of the story you tell, it is not a sales page. The people who visit want to know who you are, and why you do what you do for customers more than they want to know exactly what you do.

Collect Information

Never miss an opportunity to collect leads. The end of your about us page is an excellent area to put a newsletter sign up form. Make it an unimposing offer to learn more and stay up-to-date about your company.  If people liked what they read, they’re likely going to want more information, so you want to catch these leads while they are feeling connected to you. Follow up immediately.

Point to Resources & Further Reading

Your about page is also a great place to point your readers to other information on your site. Do not point them away from your website by linking to affiliates products, or even your own products and services. Instead, link them to more information that is about your business such as press releases, informative blog posts, spotlights on other websites or “as seen in” other publications.  If it’s positive news about the company or you or members of your team, it should be on your about us page.

 Update it Often

The biggest missing element in any about page is the fact that was mentioned at the start of this article. Most people create their about page and never look at it again. It’s important that as your business grows, and you learn more about your audience and you help more people, that you update your about page. You don’t need to update it often, but a yearly refresher should be highly considered.

Your about page can help your audience relate to you in such a way that they feel trusting enough to connect, and maybe even spend money with you. Creating a good one is an art that cannot be overlooked. You can learn the art with practice, patience and persistence. If you find that you’re having issues creating an effective about us page, consider working with a professional to ensure that you leave no stone unturned.

Brand Strategically: How To Tell When Your Graphic Designer Doesn’t “Get” Branding

Brand Strategically-060514There’s a great deal of discussion these days in regard to branding and re-branding. Typically branding is seen to be the domain of the big players in the marketplace. But what was formerly thought to be only available to them is now available to the rest of us – small and medium size enterprises (SME’s) who wish to use strategy to win. They are intrigued that they can absolutely succeed through taking a leadership position. SME’s turn to graphic designers to facilitate their “branding.”

It’s this writer’s opinion that a good percentage of graphic designers see branding or re-branding as nothing more than changing the logo and marketing materials – visual solution. The reasons SME’s have for needing branding typically have very little to do with visuals per se. Many are searching for a solution to flat sales, low moral, changing culture, up-dating of positioning, expansion , succession and any number of business issues. If you’re looking to have branding done properly, I’d recommend working with a firm that has a proven branding process that strategically looks at your brand and can develop strategies that position it as the leader in its category. If the graphic designers you’re speaking to only mention logo and marketing materials – hike up your britches and run like hell.

Avoiding these designers is imperative because they simply don’t “get” branding. They think it’s too complicated and frankly don’t have the confidence and expertise to deliver the real article so they deliver what they do have confidence in – a visual solution only. The unqualified designer will view a strategic, process-driven approach as counter-intuitive. I’m guessing it won’t to you when you understand that strategy is what the visual solution is based on. An experienced branding expert will deliver a strategic and visual solution together as an overall deliverable. Experiencing this properly allows you the customer to appreciate the value delivered. When delivered to your branding team, a qualified designer now becomes an integral strategic partner to your business. They will be able to assist you in not only developing a leading brand but also assist and facilitate launching it effectively.

Look for and demand that a branding process be utilized. A branding process allows everyone on your team to easily understand what is taking place. Your Team may not be used to things like branding, design and strategic brainstorming. A process allows everyone to see the deliverables as they emerge. They get that something comes next and over time builds into something very powerful and motivating. If you as an SME have experience in things like compliances, ISO and industry standards then a branding process with its validation components will make perfect sense to you with you.

As with anything an SME does to improve their business, it’s important to get it right the first time. Branding is no different. If you find it daunting to walk yourself through it, then it will benefit you to bring in qualified assistance. I’ve been branding companies for a while now and every time i facilitate the process with a business’s branding team, establishing a dominate position in their category has more impact than a slogan or a new logo. It reaches deep into the culture of the company and reflects the core values in it boldness. If branding is something you’re investigating but would enjoy some research in the matter, I’d recommend the book, “Blue Ocean Strategy” to help understand why positioning is the key deliverable from any certified branding expert.

For more information on how designers can work with a branding process, or for designers wanting to up their game and deliver a genuine branding experience, check out these two comprehensive brand training programs: “How to Talk About Branding,” and the Brand Academy Certification Workshop.
Designers should also catch the no-cost webinar, “How to Make $20,000 to $50,000 on Your Next Branding Project“.