10 Ways to Make Your Online Community or Forum More Active

10 Ways to Make Your Online Community or Forum More Active

Running an active online community or forum isn’t easy. The natural tendency for forums is to start strong when everyone is new and excited, but to dwindle over time as people lose interest and move on.

We know first hand. Before the Fizzle community, we had this exact experience. We started three different online communities (two private, one public) that followed this same pattern. Strong start… slow fade to ghosttown.

The Fizzle community is a different story. Now after about two years in, our forums remain vibrant, engaging and useful to our members.

People who join Fizzle like to say they “come for the courses and stay for the community.” We have over 79,000 total posts from a community of around 1,350 current active members. Many of our members check in multiple times daily. The community is the watercooler of conversations for so many people who have no one else to talk to about the ups and downs of self-employment.

When we started Fizzle, we knew an active communtity needed to be at the center of things. We were also worried about how we would keep the community strong months and years into the project. So we studied other active forums and talked to people like Steve Kamb (who runs the massive Nerd Fitness forum) to find out how to make the Fizzle community as strong as we could.

We learned a lot from other forums, and from experiments along the way. Here 10 of the most important things we’ve learned you should do to make your online community or forum more active:


1. Create an onboarding process for your community

If you want people to participate in your community, you have to hold their hands and show them why it’s so important to you.

The best way to do this is with an “onboarding” process for new members. Your goal is to create a series of touch points (probably an email campaign) that tells people why the community is important and guides them through creating a profile and posting their first message. An “introduce yourself” forum is a great place for people to start.

If you can, give people hard numbers. For example, we know that people who participate in our forums are more likely to succeed at building a business, and more likely to earn higher incomes from their businesses than people who do not participate in the forums. Basically, tell your new members what’s in it for them.


2. Create a guided video course about how to use your forums best

Most forum software packages (we use IP.Board) have advanced features that are key to getting the most out of participating in a community. Notifications, search, private messaging, signatures and other features might seem self explanatory to you, but many people have never used forums before.

You’ll also likely have unique forum features and sections you build in over time. We have sections for progress logs and finding mastermind group partners, for example. You’ll want to explain these sections to people so they know why they matter and how to use them.

A guided video course is a great way to do this, and it doesn’t have to be difficult to create. All you need to do is record your screen and voice, explaining the different features of your forums.

Bonus lesson: here’s a full video lesson from inside Fizzle on how to record your screen to create a guided course like the one I’m talking about here.

 


Note: join Fizzle for $1 and get all 16 lessons of this course along with the 100s of other lessons inside. We think you’ll like it. And if you don’t, cancel anytime.


3. Encourage progress logs or other types of forums that require regular interaction

A real life progress log in Fizzle. This one belongs to John Corcoran.

A real life progress log in Fizzle. This one belongs to John Corcoran.


One of the hottest sub-forums inside the Fizzle community is the progress log section. That’s where people check in regularly to talk about what they’ve accomplished and what they’re working towards in their businesses. A progress log is a great way to hold yourself accountable and get feedback from other people about what you’re working on.

This type of forum is great for building activity and engagement in your community. Create some kind of section for ongoing threads, where people are reporting on something over time. For example, if your forum was about losing weight, a daily or weekly progress log would be a great way for members to record and share how they’re doing.


4. Spend time in the community yourself

This one might sound simple, but you might be surprised how many people expect to install forum software and poof! have an active community just spring up without any additional work.

In the beginning especially, it’s absolutely crucial that people feel like it’s worth their time to participate in your forums. When someone posts in the forums and doesn’t receive a reply, it’s like your community gets a little cut. One cut doesn’t matter too much, but if this continues, your forum will eventually suffer death from a thousand cuts.

Before you have top contributors in your community, it’s your job to be there to answer every post that goes unanswered. Obviously, this strategy won’t scale, but right now you’re concerned about bootstrapping your community, not scaling it.

Then, as you find people rising up and taking leadership roles within your community, you need to be there for them even more, nurturing your relationship with them and showing how appreciative you are for the participation.


5. Promote members of your community to special positions

Eventually, a handful of members will stand out as leaders and daily active contributors. A great way to reward and encourage this behavior is to recognize it in front of the whole community.

We have a special “Fizzle Wiz” title bestowed on our most active and respected members. It’s a title and an open line to us, and an expectation that our Wizzes will help us keep our finger on the pulse of the community by sharing ideas and alerting us to anything that we should be paying attention to.

Some people will take this special title pretty seriously (see the wizard hat in this photo? Our wizzes Darlene and Dee brought it to an in-person meetup and insisted I wear it during a talk I gave). That’s a good thing. You want members to take ownership of the community when possible. It ensures your long-term viability.


6. Send weekly “what’s new in the community” messages and give shout outs to people doing great stuff

We brought Barrett Brooks onboard earlier this year as our Director of Member Success. Barrett has become our eyes and ears in the community, making sure we’re aware of everything going on, and helping us echo back what we’re hearing.

Sending weekly summaries of the best posts and accomplishments from your community is a great way to keep people coming back, and to encourage them to make progress themselves. The weekly “What’s New in Fizzle” messages Barrett creates are simple lists of things we think people should be called out and pat on the back for. We also give shout-outs in our monthly live office hours calls.

The more kudos you can provide, the stronger the positive feedback connection between success and participating in the community.

This is a dead simple way for members to keep abreast of the conversations going on inside the community. In our community, at least, We’ve heard a ton of great responses from Fizzlers about this one “feature,” how it keeps them interested, informed and, normally, how they learn something they didn’t know in someone’s recent experiment or launch.


7. Make sure email notifications are enabled, and encourage people to subscribe to thread activity

Here’s another simple one that can easily get overlooked. Forum notifications are important to let people know when there is activity on one of their posts or comments. I’m always annoyed by forums that don’t notify me of new comments, because it’s easy to forget about something you posted and never come back to look for replies.

Email is an important piece of your forum strategy. When people first sign up, checking in with your forum won’t be in their daily routine. You’ll need to pull them back, and email is the best tool for that.

Make sure email notifications are enabled within your forum, and be sure to show people how to subscribe to individual threads or entire sub-forums if they want to.


8. Get your community together in other ways: especially in person and on live video calls

This has been huge for us. The people who show up to either live online video calls and especially in-person meetups are consistently our most active forum members.

There is something about being able to talk to people in-person or over video that adds an extra dimension to the community and makes people see the forums (and the people behind it) differently.

In Fizzle we have weekly informal webinars called “Fizzle Friday” where people simply show up if they can make it and myself or Chase or Barrett facilitates a conversation, usually starting with “what are you up to right now? Need any help with anything?” Something magic happens in a decentralized community like this when you hear each others’ voices and see each others’ faces over time.


9. Create case studies from your most successful members

This is a great way to take your kudos and pats on the back to a whole new level. Case studies of your most successful members are a great way to shine a spotlight on people who have accomplished great things.

These case studies will encourage your other members, and they can be a great way to draw in new members as well.

Better yet, let people create their own case studies. Give them a place in the forums to share their successes. From the success stories, you can create full case studies, or even repurpose the successes into public content, like this great post from Fizzle member Thomas Frank, which was originally published in the forums as a success story: How to Produce High Quality Videos for Under $1,000.

There’s all sorts of little lessons learned in these case studies. If your community is formed around a topic or skill people are looking to get better at, showcasing the stories of how some members were able to make progress can be an excellent way to not only encourage folks but also to help them with specific tactics to actually make progress of their own.


10. Other ideas

Here are a handful of other ideas for making your community more active. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below with other tips and tricks you’ve used or seen.

  • Require real names and photos (we’ve found this to be a factor in encouraging open, honest, helpful conversations).
  • Funnel discussions from courses, blog posts and other places into the forums (we use the forums as our discussion outpost for courses and founder stories interviews).
  • Track key forum metrics, including posts per member, percent of members with forum profiles, percent of members posting per week, etc. (we look at these weekly to see the health of the forums overall).
  • Study features of other popular forums. When you run out of ideas, go fishing. Sign up for other forums and see how things are done.

Have you been a part of a community like this? Are you running your own? What else have you done or seen done to make an online community more active? Please share in the comments.

I’ll Be Speaking at the Sales Hacker Conference Next Thursday in San Francisco. Come Join Me (and Us).

Next Thursday in SF, I’ll be speaking on my Top 10 Mistakes and Learnings :) on the way to building a sizeable SaaS business at the Sales Hacker Conference (use the discount code SAASTR).

It will be a fun time, and I gave a keynote at the first Sales Hacker Conference in SF just about a year ago, and it was a special event.

It will also be a unique opportunity to hear from, and interact with, some of the most thoughtful sales leaders I know:

  • Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.18.07 AMBrendon Cassidy, my VP of Sales, previously head of sales at LinkedIn, now VP of Sales at Talkdesk.  Speaking to us about how he’s doing it even better building his Third Great Sales Team.
  • Kris Duggan, CEO of Betterworks.  Kris is widely credited with having created the enterprise sales team at WebEx.  He’s one of the most thoughtful thinkers I know on big enterprise sales.  Want to know how six and seven figure enterprise deals are seemingly conjured out of thin air?  Kris will share how he’s done this 3x.
  • Sam Blond, VP of Sales at Zenefits.  Sam worked with Brendon and me and has scaled Zenefits like a rocketship, up to 70 reps already.  I’m going to use his session here as a blueprint for some things I want to do at The SaaStr Annual In February.
  • There will also be a nice Customer Success track, and I’m hoping they touch a lot on Second Order Revenue :)

I’ll be there all day, and the final speaker.

It’s also in the same location at The SaaStr Annual so we’ll use it as a lab (the awesome team from Sales Hacker is helping me put on The SaaStr Annual), leverage what works well, and iterate on the way to February 5.

See you there!

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.04.59 AM


How to Get at Least 500 More Google+ Followers by Next Week

Google+ is still a very important part of the social media landscape. Even though Google Authorship has disappeared, we still have Google+. Growing your presence on this social media giant is as important as ever.

I want to tell you how you can grow your Google+ following. Unlike Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, there are no follow penalties or limits on how many people you can follow, or how many people can follow you. This is a recipe for major expansion.

Keep in mind that you don’t just want to grow your numbers. You want engaged followers. In this post, I’ll explain both how you can boost your numbers and increase your engagement.

Follow my instructions, and you’ll have an extra 500 followers or more by next week.

Optimize the heck out of your profile.

I know I’m starting with the boring, but I’ve got to say it. Your profile needs to look good.

There are millions of people on Google+. Your profile must stand out to people who are in your niche.

You don’t want to be yet another bland, faceless entity on Google+. You want to shape your profile into something that looks interesting. Be a person that others want to follow.

When I look at the profile of Guy Kawasaki, he looks like the kind of guy I want to put in my circles. He’s interesting, active, and has a ton of followers).

1-guy-k-google-plus

So, go fix up your profile. Put some real pictures of your face. Add your story. Invent a tagline, and give people an interesting introduction.

If you don’t start with an optimized profile, every other tip I share with you below is going to be a waste of your time.

Follow as many people as possible.

In order to be followed, you must follow others. It’s the name of the social media game.

In social media, there are certain unwritten rules of etiquette. One such rule is the follow-back etiquette. If someone follows you, you follow them back, as long as they don’t look like some spam account. You get a pass on the follow-back etiquette if you’re a really busy person or a celebrity.

This is where a Google+ following begins. You start adding people to your circles.

Here’s how you do this.

  • Click on the people icon in the upper right.
  • You should see a list of “People to Add.”
  • Go through the list of people with whom you have some association — colleges, college buddies, neighbors, etc.
  • Add them to relevant circles. By the way, I wouldn’t worry about trying to classify everyone just perfectly. I’m all about being organized, but a tedious friend taxonomy will probably just waste your time in the long run. Don’t worry about what you call your circles. Other people can’t see your circles.

Add as many people as you want to. The more you add, the more likely they are to add you back.

If there are people who followed you, then you can follow them back. These are the “People to Add.” The other people you’ll see are “Suggestions.” Add them, too.

2-people-to-add

To take your following up to the next level, go to the “See more suggestions page.” This is where you can focus your following, and add a lot of people in a very limited amount of time.

Again, you want an engaged follower list, not just a bunch of numbers. You can use this page to refine your efforts. In addition, you can use the “Add all” button at the top right to add dozens or even hundreds of people at once.

3-find-people

How many people should you add to your circles? As many people as you think are relevant to your niche and interests.

Here are some general rules.

Of the people you follow…

  • One quarter of the strangers not in your niche will follow you back.
  • One half of the strangers who are in your niche will follow you back.
  • Two thirds of your friends will follow you back.

Do the math, and see how many followers you can get.

Remember what I said about optimizing your profile? If you add someone to your circles, they will get notified. Then, they will go and look at your profile. If you don’t look very interesting, they won’t add you. If you do look interesting, then you’re in, and you’ve gained a follower.

Join communities.

When you add people to your circles, you’re putting your name in front of one person at a time.

That’s okay. But what if you could put your name in front of hundreds or thousands of people?

You can. It’s called communities.

4-communities-button

When you join a community, you are part of a larger group of people who are engaged on a certain topic. This is another way that you can refine your level of engagement on Google+ in order to amass not just a lot of followers, but the right kind of followers.

This community, for example, has nearly 100,000 people. If I join this community, I have a good chance of widening my exposure among people who are interested in Google+ Updates.

5-google-plus-updates

On the communities page, Google+ suggests communities that you can be a part of.

Look for communities to join that have these characteristics:

  • Large. The definition of “large” varies according to your niche, but if it has a few hundred or thousand members, it’s probably a pretty good size.
  • Active. Each image icon tells you how many posts the group has. I’m looking for numbers in the thousands here.
  • Relevant. Only join communities that are relevant to your interests.

6-discovering-communities

While you’re busy joining communities, don’t forget to allow your community memberships to show on your profile. This could give you an extra leg up to gain more exposure and more followers.

7-google-plus-communities

Post on Google+ every day.

Here’s another general rule of social media. It doesn’t matter what social media platform you’re using, this is always true:

  • The more active you are, the more often you’ll appear in feeds.
  • The more often you appear in feeds, the more like you are to be seen and followed.

In other words, the more active you are, the more people will follow you.

I recommend that you post regularly on Google+. Treat it like your own personal mini blog. Be sure to keep your content style varied.

It’s easy to pop up some text, photos, a link, a video, or even an event with a single click.

8-im-getting-new-followers

As long as you have an engaging commentary, you’ll continue to pick up a steady stream of followers. By the way, it’s best to keep your posts available to the public in order to gain as wide an exposure as possible.

Interact with what’s hot.

If you want to get right in on the Google+ action, you don’t have to guess around as to what’s popular. Like Twitter’s trending topics, you can find out exactly what’s hot.

9-google-plus-whats-hot

To get in on the action, visit this tab and start interacting.

  • Comment on popular posts.
  • Share popular posts.

Explore hashtags, and use them.

From the “What’s Hot” tab, you can explore hashtagged posts. Type in a topic to explore what other topics are relevant. Use this list to improve your own use of hashtags.

Here’s how you can use the discover feature. Start by typing in whatever it is you’re interested in.

10-whats-recommended

You can use one of the auto-suggestions, or choose your own.

Based on the hashtag that you enter, Google+ will suggest others.

11-hashtag-seo

These are the hashtags that the Google+ algorithm has selected as hot and popular. In other words, these are the hashtags you need to be using in your Google+ updates.

Hashtags are a powerful way to increase your exposure and follows. Be sure to use them, plenty of them, every time you post.

For more tips on Google+ hashtags, check out Anne Smarty’s article on Social Media Examiner.

Ask for +1s on your posts.

Statistics shows that if you ask for likes, retweets, or +1s, you’ll get them. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

When you post something, especially something good, ask for +1s. “Something good” might be a blog you’ve recently written or guest posted somewhere.

Watch ripples.

Ripples is one of the underused features of Google+. Most people view it as more of a curiosity than a strategy. Let me tell you how you can use Ripples to grow your followers.

First, locate a post that you think is interesting or engaging.

Then, locate the small down arrow in the upper right of the post. This produces a drop down menu. Click “View Ripples.”

12-john-mueller

The Ripple display helps you know who’s sharing what, and how far their reach is. Your goal in viewing the ripples is to find those influencers, and add them to your circles.

If they follow you back, then they have a good chance of resharing content that you have on your feed. This, in turn, gives you more exposure and more follows.

Assuming the post below is on a topic in your niche, then these people may be helpful to have as influencers.

13-google-ripples

Pick the best time to post.

The time you choose to post has a big impact on how many people you’ll reach.

Part of finding out the best time to post is trial and error. Your time zone, niche, and audience are all an important part of the consideration.

You can use an app called Timing+ to find out what the best time is for you.

14-timing-plus

Mention influential people in your post.

If you want to hobnob with the influencers, get on their radar, and pick up some extra follows, then try this targeted technique: Tag influential people when you post an update.

Obviously, you don’t want to annoy people or spam them. But if you do have something worth saying to the right people, go ahead and say it.

As long as you are following these people, you can tag them in your post.

15-my-site-experienced

Link to your profile whenever and wherever you can.

You’ll pick up extra follows in all the sources where you have your Google+ profile featured. Be generous with mentioning your Google+ account.

The more you spread your Google+ link across the web, the more people will follow you.

Conclusion

Here’s the great thing about gaining Google+ followers. The more you get, the more you’ll get. It’s like a snowball. As you amass more followers, you’ll appear in more feeds, in more circles, in more groups, and in more discussions.

If you can get things going, Google+ will eventually start to take care of itself. You should still be active, of course, but the aggressive circle-building won’t be as necessary.

How do you grow Google+ followers?

About the Author: is the Chief Evangelist of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

The Ultimate Content Marketing Checklist: 40 Questions to Ask Yourself before Publishing Your Next Blog Post

content marketing The beautiful part about content marketing is that it can bring you thousands of social shares, new email subscribers, and tons of comments, but only if your blog posts are masterpieces and you do content marketing right. But content marketing has so many elements to it that it’s really easy to forget them, right? To help you succeed, I’ve created a checklist. If you hit at least the majority of the items on the list below, your content will perform well. Read More

How to Make Your Content Relatable and Actionable

Since the first Google Panda update in Feb 2011, quality of content has become a major factor on everyone’s marketing checklist. However, your content could be filled with quality and meaty information, and even be founded on some principles that have been successful in the past, but it still could suffer a high bounce rate.

If your content is not appealing to your audience on a personal level, it will be overlooked. Content must be relatable and actionable in order to increase user attention span. So, it is important to find out what content your audience relates to, and then create a plan to boost it across all the platforms you use.

Before We Begin

The first step before creating any plan of action is to assess your current state. Look back at previous posts. How did each one perform? What aspects of your content got the most attention? You should consider comments, shares, likes, favorites, and links. Also, look specifically at bounce rate and page exit rate. This will help you determine which posts are just not connecting with your viewers, perhaps due to topic, presentation of the information, or even the time it was posted.

Use post-click metrics to eliminate pre-visit factors that could affect the accuracy of this test. For example, the number of visits is irrelevant as the efforts generating the traffic could be different from one page to another. Instead use the above-mentioned metrics.

Based on the activity of previous posts, you will have a clear understanding of what makes your audience tick and what content they are more likely to share, comment on, or ignore. You will know of specific tactics that have been proven to encourage audience activity. Therefore, you should use these tactics in all your future content.

I cannot express the importance of this test as part of preliminary research. Many people simply miss the target, not understanding that there is always a gap between what you think is interesting and what your prospects find interesting on the web.

Without further hypotheticals, let me share with you some tactics that I have seen (in my own or others’ content) engage an audience and encourage action from them afterward.

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

When discussing content on the internet, it has been noted that website users rarely read content fully. Content needs to be written for the skimmer not the reader, and when the content is topically deep, industry jargon should be explained and used carefully. The best way to write content is to understand that your readers could range from an expert to an amateur in your topic field. Here is how you can cover all your bases, and ensure simplicity for your readers:

  • Explain industry jargon and terms in parentheses or footnotes and keep in mind the advantages of focusing on clarity over jargon
  • Use bullet points and lists to break up long paragraphs
  • Create spacing to break up intimidating chunks of information so your reader will be motivated to continue skimming smoothly
  • Provide short explanations on the go to ensure that your reader will be able to follow you as your information continues
  • Link out important terms to Wikipedia, a dictionary, or other expert posts in order to provide more detailed explanations for terms that you don’t cover

Here is an example of bad structure and an altogether boring page:

the most boring thing ever written

Don’t do this! Instead, review your content before publishing and ask yourself if the overall content layout increases its legibility. Tweak as necessary.

Tell How to Do, Not Just What to Do

There is certainly a place for content that describes what to do. Listing the five best software tools with which to find influencers is an article that many people would eat up. However, when it comes to content, it is important that you teach “how to do” and not just “what to do.” Writing the “what” is a very on-the-surface content goal. Eventually, you or your reader will desire to delve deeper into the subject. If you desire to be seen as a resource, then you must discuss the “how” of your topic with your reader:

  • Describe your personal processes and tools and how you use them to gain a competitive edge
  • Give examples from your work and research and how you read the data
  • List resources and share how they have improved your knowledge or skill

By writing the “how,” you actually are teaching, versus merely informing. When you help others solve a problem, you invest in their needs, you build relationships, and you keep them reading. As your viewer continues, they are pushed down the buying funnel from interest and consideration to perhaps conversion and loyalty.

Note: While the “how to” posts encourage engagement, this technique cannot be applied in all circumstances; i.e. news, opinions, history, review, or facts.

When describing “how to do,” it is important to have the mindset, patience, and verbiage of a teacher. Your expert-level knowledge about a topic has multiple layers which you take for granted. It is easier for you to think about a subject as a whole, but that is a common teaching mistake. When explaining a process, you must break it down.

Explain your subject in a way that everyone can understand.

boss-meme

Photo Credit: Memes.com

Some additional reading might help you hone your technical writing skills. I found these two articles to be informative and to the point: WikiHow and Wikibooks.

Show Visuals

Showing visuals relates to both of the previous points (readers have short attention spans and “how to” articles can be boring to read). To address the first point, understand that your reader is looking for the easiest way to have their question answered. Let’s be honest, website viewers are busy. To address the second point, understand readers will not continue reading a paragraph describing how you completed a task, which took you to another page, where you moved your cursor to a certain button… Content needs to be more visually engaging. Try these ideas:

  • Provide graphs that help to explain your data and research findings
  • Use screenshots of the tools, buttons, and/or tabs that you used
  • Create descriptive images and graphs that directly relate to the content and give new insights to your descriptions
  • Use videos that tell a story and capture the attention of viewers in ways that a written article cannot

Black text on a white background is boring! Enrich the page with visuals and colors that pertain to the subject. Also, avoid the common mistake of using generic graphics.

Showing visuals makes content easier to understand, and the reader more likely to stay. Explaining is easier with pictures. As you can see below, pictures really are worth a thousand words:

chopstick diagram

There are hundreds of research articles proving that images keep readers engaged and keep them on the page. Simplymeasured.com did A/B testing for including images in tweets and the results were very conclusive.

Answer Your Readers’ Questions

Since Hummingbird, the web is geared more than ever toward answering users’ questions. Make sure to ask and answer questions throughout your post. This ensures that you stay relevant during the writing process. The goal with content is to completely exhaust your topic. Think how frustrating it is for your reader if they peruse your entire post, yet leave with their question still unanswered.

Also, keep in mind that not everyone will ask a question the same way. Since our goal is to serve the maximum number of readers, we must ask multiple questions that all lead to the same conclusion. This way we are covering a broader search query area, while feeding the Hummingbird algorithm. Follow these practices:

  • In your title, either hint at an answer or ask an actual question
  • During the writing process, think about queries that your audience might have
  • Provide short and to-the-point answers
  • Break down answers in more detail below the introduction to give readers the choice of where to spend more time on the page

Answering questions in a post has to be structured. There are countless post structures you can find online. They all share one thing in common – simple structured data that is geared toward web reading. The general structure should be as follows:

content structure for a post

Remember, comments and user interaction are dynamic content. They are less important than the actual post, but will become an integral part of it. Return to the post’s comments periodically to answer questions from your readers. This further enriches the post and its textual aspects.

Be Innovative

Create your content in a wide range of formats and mediums, and be as unique and innovative as possible. Consider your content to be another form of branding yourself. Branding is a powerful tool for your business because it gives you the chance to link emotional responses with your offered service and to go beyond pictures, colors, and typography. Don’t hide behind your professional website, but rather use innovative content to show users that your brand is personable, relatable, and human. Here are some ideas:

Find ways to laugh at yourself, and encourage others to see why they should laugh with you, like JC Penny’s tweeting with mittens:

jcp-tweets

Find ways to show that your company is human, like Coca Cola’s give-back initiative:

Find ways to show that your company is unique, like Dove with their pushes toward changing industry stereotypes:

dove-youtube-video

Wrap Up

Making content relatable and actionable takes time and effort. Staying on the surface is the easier choice, but it delivers little to no added value in an already saturated online arena. Your readers come to you and trust you for helpful information that is rich and thoughtful. It is also your duty to ensure that the reading process is enjoyable and smooth.

You will find that it is worth the time and effort to take a magnifying glass to your content. It should not only answer your users’ questions, but be personable to them and reveal something about your company and product that they can relate to and feel. Your content should be written with the buying funnel in mind. Write with hope that you will take your viewer one step closer toward your desired conversion and future loyalty.

In addition, you will need to have a monitoring system in place at all times. Always be looking for new insights about how your viewers are interacting with your posts. Use tools like Google Analytics to measure which content approaches are most successful. Use segments to help you read the complex data.

About the Author: Asher Elran is a practical software engineer and a marketing specialist. CEO at Dynamic Search and founder of Web Ethics.

The breakfast of champions: Feedback from BoS2014

‘Awesome people’, ‘My tribe’,’Quality of other attendees’, ‘Being surrounded by people smarter than me’.

As ever, there is a theme to the feedback forms from BoS USA this year. And – as ever – it’s the people. Thank you all for being there and for participating so whole heartedly. It’s what gives BoS its unique atmosphere and believe me, we love it as much as you do.

While we’re on the theme of participation, this year many of you got involved in the breakout sessions where you took time to think about your BoS experience and tell us what we can do to make it better. Incredibly valuable, it gave us a chance to dig a bit deeper than a feedback form allows and ask some of the most respected entrepreneurs on the planet for free advice on how to improve our product ;-) Who wouldn’t love a bit of that?IMG_1011

Thanks to Luke Hohmann and the Conteneo team for making this happen. Between you you generated a lot of great ideas and we’re working through them to see what our next actions need to be. Here’s some recurring themes where we do have a few answers for you

You’d like videos of talks available sooner after the event. We’ve always taken a little time to produce broadcast quality video of the BoS talks, but we could make lower quality rushes with a single camera angle available more quickly. These would in time be replaced by the finished product

You’d like the slides from the speakers. Of course this is possible. We’ll put the slides on slideshare before the end of this week with a blog post to share them out.

You’d like easier access to content from previous years. This has been at the top of our development list for a while now and we have it up and running on the BLN site - filter by event, topic, year, speaker and order by popularity and date. We’re working on a solution that will mirror this from the BoS site.

You’d like a European event. May we present….BoS Europe! It’s just like BoS but in our backyard. This year’s test event was a great success and next year we’ll be expanding our promotion across Europe.

Now this is only a small sample of the many great ideas that you came up with – filtered by the ‘yes that’s easy to do’ filter. There were many others that would require a little more resource from us and need some prioritisation. So we will be working again with Luke’s team to play an online game that will give an idea of which ideas really have value for you.

What’s happening next year?

If you want to see us deliver more of what you love with some improvements, you can sign up for next year’s Business of Software events at a special EarlyBird book before the speakers rate. BoS Europe will run 25 – 26th June in Robinson College, Cambridge, while BoS USA will run 21-23rd September at our old home, the Seaport Hotel, Boston.

Do join us: you’re the ones that make the difference.

The post The breakfast of champions: Feedback from BoS2014 appeared first on Business of Software US.

The absolute bare minimum: SEO for designers

You may have heard a few things about search engine optimization (SEO). Probably not many of them were nice. But today I am going to teach you the absolute bare minimum you – as a designer – need to know about SEO. Being aware of some ground rules will make your work much more valuable […]

La entrada The absolute bare minimum: SEO for designers aparece primero en Nusii: Proposal software for creative professionals..

Episode 208 | How To Productize Your Service with Brian Casel

Show Notes Transcript [00:00] Mike: This is “Startups for the Rest of Us,” episode 208. [00:02] Music [00:10] Mike: Welcome to “Startups for the Rest of Us,” the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product, or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike. […]

Why Your Company Should Ban Email

Thomas Knoll, Founder of PrimeLoop, talks about why he’s baked the “no internal email” rule into his company. He talks about the insane benefits to workflow, culture, and sanity, as well as how any company can start to implement the same processes, regardless of size. He shares what tools they use to replace the need for email and why each is so much more efficient both in the short, and the long run.

Show Notes:

  • Thomas Knoll
  • Primeloop
  • I banned email at my company [Medium article]
  • Slack
  • Dropbox
  • Trello
  • Hackpad
  • WorkingOn
  • 500 Startups
  • Intro Song by Alex Koch of Digital Dust Studios
  • Outro Song: Joey Bada$ - "Christ Conscious" (Prod. by Basquiat)
  • Pain: The Missing Ingredient in Ecommerce

    Don’t let the title put you off. Pain is actually a good thing, especially in an ecommerce setting.

    • Pain can help move a customer to action.
    • Pain can create a sense of relief in a customer.
    • Pain can tighten the conversion funnel.
    • Pain can improve conversion rates.

    Pain is obviously a significant factor in online sales. But we need to be more specific. What exactly is this pain? Who’s feeling it? And how do we apply it to ecommerce?

    What is pain in selling?

    If you’ve gone through any specialized sales training, you may be familiar with the idea of “pain sales” or the “pain funnel.”

    The term was popularized by the late sales guru, David Sandler. Sandler developed the Sandler Selling System, which coached professional salespeople on how to increase and improve their sales ability.

    One of the features of the Sandler Selling System is the idea of pain. Here’s how a Sandler Training website expressed it:

    It’s not about features and benefits anymore…certainly not in the beginning of your conversations with a prospect. It’s about the PAIN they’re in, and they’re trying to determine if you are a solution. They buy YOU first…then they think about your product or service.

    Sandler’s followers expanded upon the idea of pain with “The 3 Levels of Pain.” According to their philosophy, the salesperson should “dig deeper” and uncover three intensifying levels of pain:

    1. Level 1 Pain — Getting Technical. Find out what technical issue the customer wants a solution to.
    2. Level 2 Pain – The Business-Financial Impact. Go beyond sales to understand how this problem affects the business, especially in a financial sense.
    3. Level 3 Pain – Personal Interest. Finally, determine how this pain is affecting the buyer individually, and create a relationship that is built upon trust and an interpersonal relationship.

    Sandler’s method proposes a series of questions that will help to uncover the pain. It is called the Pain Questioning Path.

    • What have you tried before to fix the problem we’re discussing?
    • Did that eliminate the problem?
    • Why do you suppose that didn’t work?
    • How much did it cost you?
    • How did it make you feel?
    • How committed are you personally to resolving the problem….not how committed is your boss or your team……..YOU?

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t see myself asking questions like that. Talk about awkward. And if someone started asking me questions like that, I would probably tell them that I already have a counselor.

    One feature of the method is called “striplining,” which isn’t as risqué as it sounds. Striplining is basically asking the seller questions so that the buyer ends up selling themselves the product. Striplining is intended to reinforce the pain that is latent within the buyer’s awareness as they consider a product.

    Many proponents of the pain method go even further down this path. In one of the pain selling resources, they describe a process of discovering the “real pain” of a potential customer:

    We ask him, “How does this impact your business?” He responds that they lose a day of production every time it crashes.

    Most salespeople would stop there and think “I got this one.” The cost of losing a day’s production is far more than replacing the server but that is not his real pain.

    A Vendere Partners prospect Manager asks, “What happens when you lose a day’s production?” “Well it affects my bonus!” He responds.

    The average sales representative thinks to himself; now I got this? Wrong, The Vendere Partners next question is: “…How does that affect you personally?”

    That is when we find out that his only daughter is getting married this summer and his worst fear is telling his baby “no” to anything that she may want for this big day. There is his real pain!

    The process of this pain discovery has taken the salesperson from a simple server outage to the highly emotional intensity of a father who wants to give his daughter the wedding of her dreams. Other examples depict a car salesperson helping a client not just to buy a car, but to buy a car in order to skillfully avert a divorce.

    This method has some merit. It has identified human motivation. Every human being wants to either avoid pain or seek pleasure.

    The problem is, using pain as the exclusive sales technique is flawed. Pain can and should be part of a sales strategy. But to build an entire system off of pain is making too much of one thing.

    B2B salespeople must also realize that, at some point, their role in selling has a logical endpoint. Uncovering a customer’s deep pain is borderline intrusive, but pretending to solve such emotional needs is downright deceptive.

    A New Way to Use Pain

    I’ve studied pain-based selling, but I’m not sold on it. There are a variety of reasons why I’m hesitant to base my entire strategy upon pain. Let me explain.

    Pain is not a strategy. Pain is a neuromarketing reality.

    I prefer to look at pain as one method of many that can advance an online sale. In this way, I value pain not as a strategy necessarily, but for its psychological impact. I see pain as a neuromarketing advantage.

    I carefully explained the idea of pain selling, because I want to understand how pain selling is applied in some contexts. I believe that such strategies go too far. However, I do think that introducing pain into the process is appropriate, provided we do it the right way.

    The Psychological Reality of Pain

    Pain should be viewed as a psychological reality, but not necessarily an experience that we should exploit in the sales process. We should identify it and respond, but not probe for it and exacerbate it. There’s a difference.

    Pain is real, and we must respond to it in a genuine and straightforward way. I’ll explain how in just a moment.

    Pain is something that every human experiences. But the pain that we’re discussing here is not the physical sensation, but the emotional impact.

    Inarguably, pain — even physical pain — has mental effects. There is an unbreakable link between physical pain and its emotional response, as numerous clinical and psychological studies have determined.

    We as marketers should understand that our customers have pain, that it is real, and that we can satisfy it in a limited way.

    “The Secret of Neuromarketing” is Pain

    In 2012, The New York Times released an article in which they discussed “The Secret of Neuromarketing.” What’s the secret? Pain.

    As proven by neuroimaging, the brain’s amygdala lights up when humans are confronted with a proposition to buy a product. The amygdala is the same part of the brain that is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. Fight-or-flight is what we experience when we are undergoing an intense experience such as an attack or another dangerous situation. The “reptilian” brain, which is the oldest and most primitive part of the brain, is responsible for prompting this response.

    Interestingly, this is the same section of the brain that is triggered when we are faced with a purchase situation. That’s why neuromarketers have identified pain as the part of the brain that must be targeted in a sales setting.

    How do you use pain in ecommerce?

    So, let’s get down to business.

    We recognize that pain is a psychological reality. We recognize that the brain’s pain center is triggered in a sales setting. So, how do we bring these principles to bear upon an ecommerce sales process?

    It takes a three-step approach:

    1. Identify your customer’s pain.
    2. Remind them of the pain
    3. Show them the solution the pain.

    This is very different from the pain-oriented selling process that we surveyed above. According to that process, the salesperson would dig around for the customer’s deepest emotional pain point, and then work backwards to demonstrate, often circuitously, how and why his product could solve that deep emotional pain.

    This process is far more straightforward. You simply acknowledge that the customer has a pain of some sort. That’s why they are considering your product. Then, you gently remind them that they are experiencing that pain. Finally, you provide a solution to that pain.

    I’ll take a closer look at each of these points with some examples.

    Examples of using pain in ecommerce.

    Watch this process in work. Remember, it’s a three step approach 1) Identify, 2) Remind, 3) Solve.

    The lawn is getting long. The customer does not want to mow it, because it takes too long. Pain: Wasting precious weekend time.

    This ecommerce site reminds the user of this pain with the phrase “Take your Saturday back.” This resonates with a customer who has been upset over losing precious weekend hours.

    1-taskeasy-home-page

    A customer doesn’t like to have to buy razor blades all the time. He wants them delivered on a schedule. Pain: He wants to avoid unnecessary trips to the store. He doesn’t want to run out of razors.

    This landing page identifies that pain, reminds the customer, and provides a solution.

    2-gillette-landing-page

    A customer has a cracked iPhone screen. She is experiencing the pain of a damaged product and embarrassment. TT Wireless knows the pain, shows the pain with the picture of a cracked iPhone, and solves it with their solution.

    3-tt-wireless

    A customer is unsatisfied with how they hang pictures on the wall. It’s inconvenient, and they often get it wrong. This website identifies that frustration, reminds the customer how agonizing it is, and pitches the answer to the pain. The phrase “no more frustration” is a clear pain-focused word.

    4-patent-pending-tool

    A customer is not getting good sleep at night. This ecommerce page identifies that pain, mentions it, and has the perfect solution. “Better nights and brighter days” subtly reminds the customer of the sleepless nights and weary days that he experienced without the Casper Mattress.

    5-casper-mattress

    This painting tool promises to “cut your painting time in half,” which successfully identifies the customer’s paint point — time consuming painting jobs.

    6-accubrush-paint-edgers

    Remember, your product or service should not be about you at all. It’s all about your customer.

    This page advertises a product that identifies a painful problem — inconvenience and backaches. They solve the problem with their product — “spraying flexibility.”

    7-experience-the-temprid

    Orkin’s landing page identifies the painful situation of “bug invasions,” and promises protection.

    8-pest-removal-zone

    Often, landing pages make a mistake when they talk all about what a great company they are. Phrases like these don’t have the same customer-focused approach. A customer is always thinking about their pain and/or pleasure. How do statements like this really target the customer’s pain and pleasure? They don’t.

    “We are the leading firm…”

    “We have a history of…”

    “We have developed a track record…”

    “Our solution is carefully engineered…”

    All those statements draw the attention away from the customer, and on to the business. That’s now how effective marketing works.

    The customer is thinking of themselves, their pain, and how to alleviate it. As long as you successfully identify that pain and remind them of it, they will be more likely to convert.

    Conclusion

    Pain selling in the traditional sense has its obvious drawbacks. Pain-focused marketing, however, has its obvious advantages.

    For one, you are doing your customer a favor. You are empathizing with their pain, and providing a solution. It’s not a contrived effort to meet a need that you pried open. Rather, it is an honest attempt to provide relief for a pain that they are experiencing.

    Using pain can work in content marketing, too. If you target your customer’s pain, then you can help solve it through instruction. I use this model often when I write articles on topics such as improving blog traffic (pain: not enough traffic), or advanced SEO techniques (pain: poor SEO).

    Pain is prevalent. We need to be prepared to identify that pain and alleviate it.

    How will you use pain in your ecommerce site?

    About the Author: is the Chief Evangelist of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.