25 Customer Chat Tips to Reassure and Nurture Your Online Customers

Live chat has been around for more than a decade, but only recently have companies discovered its profound effect on website conversion rates. A recent eMarketer paper cited live chat as being directly related to 38% of online purchases. And, 62% of consumers who have used live chat said they would be more likely to purchase again from the merchant who provided the service.

Why does live chat make such a huge difference in conversion rates? It has been suggested that live chat is the only way to provide real human interaction during an online purchase. In other words, customers need questions answered and a sense of reassurance that can be provided only through live chat.

In the book, Rethinking the Sales Cycle, John Holland and Tim Young identify a sense of risk as being the most prominent emotion present in the final stages of the buying cycle. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to help customers through this stage when they see nothing more than a computer screen.

This is where the human element comes into play. Live chat allows your agents to help mitigate that sense of risk by providing reassurance and a sense of value in the product being purchased. The positive difference is undeniable.

Below are 25 tips to help you get started with live chat. Be sure to read through to the end as you’ll see more advanced techniques towards the end of the post.

Make Online Chat More Effective

1. Provide customers with a transcript

When customers chat with chat agents, they pick up useful information they may want to keep in their records. The problem is that most people don’t record every conversation, so this information can get lost.

Action: At the conclusion of a live chat session, offer to email a copy of the transcript to your customer for their records.

2. Use canned messages

When customers arrive within a live chat conversation, they should be greeted professionally and with courtesy. But it can take a lot of time for your chat agents to type out these standard messages time after time. This is where automated canned messages can really help.

You can use carefully worded standardized canned messages to automate parts of the conversation and augment your professional profile. Use this feature with good judgment, because too many canned messages can make your customers think they’re talking to a machine rather than a real person.

Action: Create a set of professionally designed pre-canned messages and train your chat agents how to use them.

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3. Use targeted proactive chat

Customers won’t always initiate the chat conversation, so you will need to proactively identify individuals who may need help and then raise the chat window with them. Customers may refuse the offer to engage in live chat, but this is not bad. In fact, just raising the offer to chat is sufficient to convey a sense of goodwill.

Consider allowing customers to browse on your site for a time before raising the offer to chat. This gives them time to get oriented before being interrupted.

Action: Identify a list of target pages where you want to increase the conversion rate, and program them to automatically raise the chat offer after a period of 30 – 60 seconds.

4. Use pre-chat survey

When customers initiate a chat session, they should be allowed to provide some preliminary information, within a pre-chat survey, that will set the direction of the chat session. For example, they can provide their name and a quick description of what they’re looking for. The chat agent can then enter the conversation prepared to answer the customer’s concern.

The pre-chat survey also allows you to quickly route the chat session to the agent who is most qualified to handle the conversation.

Action: Design a pre-chat survey form that allows customers to set the direction of the conversation. Don’t ask too many questions – just ask the questions that will allow your chat agents the necessary background so they can provide a quick and courteous answer.

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5. Promote cross-department cooperation

Your chat agents should be considered an in-house sales and support department, and as such, they should understand all product lines within your organization. This qualifies them to provide a more thorough perspective when dealing with customers – either as salespeople or as support personnel. Chat agents that know about all of your product lines can quickly identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Action: Put your chat agents through the same preliminary training programs as the salespeople.

6. Use a typing indicator

Your live chat agents should be able to see what customers are typing while they type it. It not only gives the agents insight to what the customers are thinking as they type, but it allows the alert chat agent to respond more quickly with an answer.

Chat agents also should be alerted when a customer has hit the “send” button during chat. The alert should be audible, visible, or both, and it can be used to interrupt a busy chat agent and let him know that a customer is awaiting a response. Keep in mind that your chat agents are likely to be handling multiple conversations at the same time, so anything you can do to help them multitask will help.

Action: Ensure your chat software is set up so that your agents can see a customer’s words as they type, and issue an alert when the customer has hit the “send” button.

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7. Use chat transfer

Your chat agents shouldn’t be required to know everything. Individual agents may have different areas of expertise. If a chat agent is involved in a conversation that is outside his current level of expertise, he should quickly transfer to another agent. When this happens, ensure that the customer is aware of the transfer.

Action: Train your chat agents to transfer chat sessions when required. Also, each agent must have a list of other agents and their levels of expertise.

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8. Accept chat requests automatically

Customers shouldn’t have to wait for someone to answer the chat request. Once a customer initiates a chat session, the system should accept the chat automatically and inform the customer that a chat agent will respond right away. (During this time, the customer can fill out a pre-chat survey, as mentioned in item 4.)

Your response time should be less than 10 seconds. The only way to guarantee the quick response is to accept all chats immediately.

Action: Initiate an automatic response to all incoming customer chat sessions, and allow the customer to identify the problem area. Use pre-canned messages to welcome the customer and let him know that action is taking place immediately.

9. Check chat history for returning visitors

Chat agents may gain valuable perspective by quickly reviewing previous chats with an individual customer. This allows the agent to come up to speed on issues that the customer discussed previously, and to proactively follow up with any questions. Customers will appreciate the fact that they don’t have to repeat their previous problems to newly assigned chat agents.

Action: Provide chat agents with previous chat transcripts, if available, for all incoming customer chat requests.

10. Add chat button to email

Customers who receive email from you should have a chat button embedded directly on the email. This is a nice feature that allows your customers to provide direct feedback on questions they may have regarding the email. Emails could be anything from periodic newsletters or follow-ups to individual questions or grievances.

Action: Ensure your outbound marketing team is trained on how to include a chat button with their email campaigns. Also make sure they coordinate with the chat agents whenever they include a chat button on an email so that the agents are prepared to address any questions or concerns raised in the email.

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11. Integrate live chat with your CRM tool

Your chat agents should have access to customer sales records. This allows them to update the CRM records after a chat session. It also allows your chat agents to gain additional perspective into each customer’s history, if such history already appears within the CRM tool.

In any case, all contact with customers (or potential customers) should be recorded for future reference.

Action: Train your customers on your CRM tool and provide them with limited accounts so they can view and update individual records as the need arises.

Improve Online Sales

12. Provide agents with visitor behavior analysis

Chat agents should be aware of each visitor’s online behavior before the chat session begins. Agents should know the pages that the customer has visited, and if possible, whether the customer has been on the site before. This allows the agent to more accurately understand what the customer might be looking for within your site.

It may also allow you to more intelligently route the chat session to an agent who is best qualified to answer questions that might arise from the pages that the customer visited. For example, a customer visiting pages of wireless products is more likely to ask questions related to wireless technology, so the chat session should be routed to your wireless chat expert.

Action: Ensure visitor history is available to your chat agents prior to answering a chat request.

Caution: Chat agents should never reveal the fact that the customer’s online behavior was being monitored. Nobody likes to be spied on!

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13. Issue personal chat invitation

This is similar to the proactive chat, identified in item 3 above, but different in its personal nature. Rather than providing an automated chat invitation, the personal chat invitation is far more attractive, actually offering the name and picture of the chat agent willing to help.

Some companies have found a 3:1 ratio of people willing to chat when offered a personal invitation over a standard automated offer.

Action: Encourage your chat agents to initiate personal chat invitations whenever possible. The additional human touch will encourage more chat activity. If possible, track the success rate to see its effect on conversion.

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14. Upsell and cross-sell

Your chat agents should be highly aware of the sales techniques of upsell and cross-sell. Basically, an up-sell is where a customer is persuaded to purchase a more advanced or upgraded version of the product he originally intended to purchase.

For example, a person wants to buy a normal watch for $19.95 but instead decides to purchase a solar-powered watch for ten dollars more. He is upsold with the idea that the battery would never require changing, so in the long run, he saves money.

A cross-sell occurs where a person is persuaded to purchase accessories for his initial product. For example, while purchasing a digital camera, a customer is reminded that he’ll need some extra memory cards in case he runs out of memory before he can upload his photos.

Action: Provide basic sales training for your chat agents so they can identify and act upon upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

15. Strategically place live chat buttons

All of your product pages should feature a live chat button in a consistent location. Customers should know where to go if they need help. These buttons are typically located in the upper-right corner of each page. Some of the more sophisticated sites place these buttons in an animated “slide-out” position along the left or right margin.

Do not place these buttons along the bottom of the page, as they will disappear below the fold and may never be seen.

Action: Make arrangements with your website designer to provide the chat button in a strategically located spot on each page of your website.

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Improve Your Support Team

16. Offer a post-chat survey

The post-chat survey provides you and your team an opportunity to evaluate your performance and make adjustments. Customers should be allowed to provide feedback, even if they don’t take advantage of it. The message to your customers will be that you care enough about their experience to ask them to rate your performance.

Action: Initiate an automatic survey after each online chat session and ask no more than 5 multiple-choice questions that will gauge your performance. The last question should be an open-ended text message where customers can express specific problems or provide specific suggestions.

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17. Use chat agent performance reports

Your live chat toolbox should include a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that conveys the performance of your chat agents. Each post-chat survey should be associated with the chat agent(s) that handled the communication, and the score should be analyzed periodically to identify trends.

Keep in mind that there may be other factors involved in a chat agent’s score. This can be tracked with other KPIs such as the number of visitors on the website during the chat session and the size of the chat agent’s queue. You may want to adjust your staffing depending on trends that you identify.

Action: Track a set of KPIs and associate them with each chat agent. Analyze the results periodically to locate trends that may need to be addressed.

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18. Collect chat transcripts to populate your FAQ or Knowledge Base

Your support department generates a lot of information that would be of use to future support calls. You can use your chat transcripts to help populate your FAQ database simply by linking them into the database, along with a good set of key words. Chat agents working on support calls can quickly search this database to look for similar problems and use the information to help solve the current problem.

Action: Set up a chat gateway to your internal knowledge database and train your support chat agents to use it frequently. Support calls that resolve a problem should be documented in the database, along with a good set of key words that will help locate the same problem in the future.

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19. Ensure live chat agent training and motivation

A well-trained chat agent is a motivated chat agent. People do not like to be placed in situations where they do not understand what is required of them or how to do it. Chat agents that work in the support department should not only be trained in your products, but also should be completely confident in their ability to conduct a good online chat session.

Recognize that it takes a bit of training to become a good chat agent. Chat agents typically handle 4 – 6 conversations simultaneously, but it takes practice to achieve this potential.

Action: Initiate a multi-faceted ongoing training regimen for all of your support chat agents and ensure they attend. They will lose motivation quickly if they feel they are overwhelmed and don’t understand what is required of them. Contrarily, chat agents that completely understand the job and have confidence will find this career exciting and rewarding.

20. Provide online support 24×7

Depending on the geography of your customer base, you may need to keep your chat lines open 24×7. This doesn’t necessitate burning the midnight oil. You can contract with people all around the globe, if your budget allows. If you cannot keep your chat line open 24×7, then make sure you post your chat hours clearly on the chat button itself. You may even want to disable, or “gray-out,” the button in your off hours.

Action: Analyze your customer base to see if it makes sense to keep your chat line open 24×7. If so, consider retaining personnel around the globe. If not, be sure to post your chat hours directly on the chat button.

Improve Customer Experience

21. Be genuine

Every live chat session is an opportunity to establish your company as being honest and truthful. Don’t squander or short cut this opportunity. As they say, you get only one chance to make a first impression. Chat agents should communicate honestly with your customers and let them know the limits of what they can do.

If an agent needs to transfer the customer to a more knowledgeable person, he must do so without shame or any sense of inadequacy. Many – if not most – customers have a sixth sense and know when the chat agent is stretching the truth. If your chat agent lies to a customer, it eventually will come back to haunt you and cause more problems than it solves.

Action: Carefully screen chat agents to see how they handle pressure. One good technique is to quiz an agent by asking questions that get increasingly difficult, until you reach the edge of his personal knowledge, and then see how he handles the situation.

22. Be helpful

Even if your chat agent cannot directly help a customer with a problem, he still can be helpful by either transferring the conversation to someone who does know the answer or conducting research right there online. If the research takes too much time, the chat agent should offer to email the answer to the customer.

In all cases, help is the key attribute to convey to the customer. If a customer didn’t need help, he probably wouldn’t get into the chat discussion in the first place!

Action: Ensure your chat agents understand the escalation process so that all questions and concerns can be answered within the ongoing chat session. If a question or concern cannot be answered, the chat agent should write up a helpdesk ticket and flag it as urgent. (The situation is urgent because a potential sale is pending!)

23. Be present

Good chat agents can handle 4 – 6 simultaneous conversations and make each customer believe he’s getting undivided attention. This requires some degree of training and expertise, so carefully analyze each agent’s performance level and keep him or her out of the more advance positions until they’re ready to handle the pressure.

The overriding concern is that customers must be made to feel important; however, if it takes several minutes to respond to a customer’s question, he will not feel important, and he will take his business elsewhere.

Action: Measure every response turn-around time to ensure customers get a sense of having undivided attention. Use canned messages whenever possible, so that the chat agent can more efficiently handle each customer.

24. Be thankful

Many spiritual and religious texts express the importance of maintaining an “attitude of gratitude.” In a spiritual sense, this expression conveys the importance of being grateful for all that life provides. Stated simply, the expression of gratitude often yields more things to be grateful for.

Interestingly, this attitude also applies to business situations. Even though many customers may think it trite, they still appreciate someone who is grateful for their business. The psychological effect on customers cannot be ignored; it often brings them back, because they would rather deal with people who are grateful than those who just take their business for granted.

Action: Work gratitude into every canned message your chat agents send out to your customers. Ensure your agents express gratitude in every exchange. They don’t have to knock over customers with a million “Thank you” messages, but sometimes just a simple “Thanks” can really go a long way.

25. Be engaging

An engaging person is a person who has mastered the art of conversation. While some gifted people are born with this talent, the rest of us have to learn it. It is likely that most of your chat agents will fall into this latter category. There are some simple rules to follow when engaging with your customers, and these rules should be practiced with your agents, both online and in normal conversation. Briefly, these rules are:

  • Listen carefully and ask probing questions.
  • Know the product and be ready to offer key insight to the problem.
  • Remain focused on the customer’s issues, not your own.
  • Don’t try to impress the customer with your superior knowledge.
  • Use proper grammar, particularly when conversing with those who don’t share your native language.

The above rules are fairly abbreviated, but you get the point: Customers come to you to engage in conversation that will help them, and by helping them, you obviously help yourself.

Action: It may seem old-fashioned, but ask your chat agents to read the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The book may be old, but the advice is just as relevant as ever. It will help train your chat agents in the gentle art of engaging with customers, leaving them with a true sense of loyalty toward your company.

Summary

Live chat is rapidly growing in popularity due to its ability to provide a human touch during the conversion process. The “human” part of live chat is expressed through your staff of chat agents. These chat agents must be every bit as talented as your salespeople and support personnel, with the added ability to express themselves online in ways that engage with customers on a personal level. The 25 tips presented in this article will help prepare you as you implement live chat on your site.

About the Author: Kevin Gao is the founder and CEO of Comm100, a leading provider of live chat software for business. As a software developer and small business expert, he’s always ambitious to revolutionize online customer service and communication. Follow Kevin on Google+.

The public invisibility of running mid-stage successful companies

Keith Rabois famously quipped, “I don’t know of a single successful CEO or entrepreneur who blogs regularly.”

That was five months ago, and people are still talking about it. And agreeing.

But why?

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Sure the usual exceptions are trotted out – Rand FishkinJoel Gascoigne, etc.. But the examples outweigh the exceptions 100-to-1.

Much easier is listing those who used to blog a lot, but trailed off as their companies grew — Joel Spolsky (who essentially stopped blogging after raising money for StackExchange), Dharmesh Shah (who trailed off substantially when HubSpot took off), and even Evan Williams — the co-founder of the publishing platforms Blogger, Twitter, and Medium — went quiet Medium launched.

And, if you grant my indulgent inclusion in that pantheon, I did the same as WP Engine took off, with a noticeable decrease in early 2012 and relatively little in the past twelve months.

Why?  Because my daily experiences are unsharable.

My daily life consists of (a) setting the strategy and rationale of the Engineering & Innovation department, based on a mixture of vision, data, and the needs of the rest of the company, (b) participate in doing the same for the whole company, (c) hire, (d) manage the managers whose teams execute the real work. As the CTO of a 130-person company that’s still growing along every dimension at a prodigious rate, that’s the appropriate job description.

But I can’t share anything about it.

Not only can I not share the company’s strategy, I can’t share our thought processes, our rationale, how we think about the market, how we’ve analyzed it, about customers, about metrics, about competitors, about the future. In fact, the process and data are much more precious than the conclusions.

The stories of growing a team, then teams of teams, of the personal dynamics, the changes in processes and demands, the shifts in roles and goals of everyone including myself, how that’s navigated, the trials and tribulations there — all these stories are invaluable and instructive but they are not mine to share.  To share them would be to violate the privacy of others.

The unique technology we’ve built, that we’ve prototyped, that we’re contemplating, is fascinating and valuable.  Some of it is algorithmic.  Some come from lessons you can only learn in the field with 2000+ servers and 100,000+ installations of an application.  Some are huge ideas that carry huge risk but could be transformative in our market, that will take us years to realize.

But, of course, the folks who would most benefit from those revelations are our competitors.  I’m not paranoid, but I’m not going to post trade secrets on the Internet.

Even in other departments, there’s instructive lessons I can’t talk about. The journey of our successful Series C fundraising. How we’ve designed and started to scale the sales team. How we think about the many facets of marketing: branding, positioning, events, advertising, and special projects we haven’t announced yet.

All that said, I do have more to share.  I have a backlog of posts in various states of completion. Which brings up the final point.

Keep that RSS reader enabled.  Writing is cathartic, and sharing is fulfilling, so I have selfish reasons to continue.  Just not every week.


Everything I’ve learned about business, compressed into 7 days

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Hi there, I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my book The 7 Day Startup. It contains everything I have learned about business in 8 years, compressed into a 7 day action plan.

The book will be free. I will also be releasing all of the content of the book via blog posts on this blog and other blogs. Each chapter will be modified into an acceptable blog post for the site it’s intended for.

I will also be offering 1 podcast interview for every one of the major topics in the book. If you would like to have me on your show / site, then please read on.

Guest posts

The book covers a range of topics to do with business, startups, failure, marketing and general business strategy. I have pulled together the major topic areas below and I will be offering an article on each topic to whoever is interested.

If you think an article on this topic would be suitable for your blog, please comment below or email me dan@wpcurve.com.

Article title
Description
Home
You only learn when you launchThis is my background story and will be published on the WP Curve blog.WP Curve Blog
Why validation is not the answerThis is a re-write of a blog post I've written before so I'll keep that on the Curve blog as well. WP Curve Blog
Why launch in 7 daysThis covers productivity, lean startup principles etc.
How to choose and evaluate business ideasI present a table and criteria for evaluating your best business ideas.
WTF is an MVP?I run through specific stories of companies who've launched a real MVP quickly.
How to choose and evaluate a business nameI present a table of how to evaluate a business name.
How to build a website in 1 day for $62I run through how to set up WordPress from start to finish.
20 proven ways to market your businessThis chapter is a monster. Each marketing idea is supported with a story of someone who's used it well. I'm thinking this will be better broken up into at least 2 posts, or maybe 4.
Goal setting for bootstrapped startupsThis will run through a table we use to set our goals and monitor progress.
x things to do when you launch a startupThis chapter is pretty light on. I might have to build this out more or even exclude it from the guest posts. The book is focused more on what happens before and after launch, not on launching itself.
Build a business with growth in its DNAThis gives a bunch of different business models and explains how to choose one with growth in its DNA.
15 Startup rules to live byThis one is a long post with all of my biggest learnings in business in the last 8 years

Podcast interviews

I’m also keen to do a bunch of podcast interviews to promote the book. I have put all of the topics below, if you think it would be make a great episode for your podcast just let me know in the comments.

Topic
Description
Podcast
Startup validationI have already recorded a podcast on this topic.BOOKED - Entrepreneurs for a change
How to launch a business in 7 daysWe can discuss why to launch in 7 days and the high level steps.
I have recorded an episode on Foolish Adventure with Tim Conley on this topic. I think I can do another one with some new ideas.
I have recorded an episode on Foolish Adventure with Tim Conley on this topic. I think I can do another one with some new ideas.
A framework for evaluating business ideasI'll run through my main points on evaluating business ideas.
3 examples of real MVP'sMy angle here is that MVP's are misunderstood. I will present 3 or 4 stories of examples that are real MVP's according to the definition and have resulted in successful companies.
A framework for choosing the best business nameI'll run through my points on evaluating business names.
How to build a website in 1 day for $62I run through how to set up WordPress from start to finish. I could throw in some best practice WordPress tips here as well.
20 proven ways to market your businessAs mentioned above, this chapter is a beast. We could do a few interviews or just discuss some of the stories as opposed to all of them.
Goal setting for bootstrapped startupsI'll run through a table we use to set our goals and monitor progress. We could give away the template as well. BOOKED - Having a chat with Brian Casel from Bootstrapped Web.
Build a business with growth in it’s DNAWe can chat about business models and how I go about choosing which ones to go for. We could give away the checklist I use for this.
15 Startup rules to live byThis could be a long one as well, we could chat about general rules to live by and perhaps compare notes if the interviewer shares the same views or has differing ones.

Other content scheduled

I’ll use this area to list other content I’ve scheduled around the book.

Topic
Description
Podcast
General interviewBooked an interview with Phil from The Likability CoNot published yet

Please comment!

I’m super keen to put this content out into the world, so please comment below and let me know if you want to help. I’ll continue to update this post with the sites we choose as a home for the various pieces of content.

The post Everything I’ve learned about business, compressed into 7 days appeared first on WP Curve.

Convert Abandoned Visitors With 3 Surprisingly Underused Proven Technologies

You’ve given it all you’ve got to bring prospects to your site. But, then, the next thing you know, poof, they’re gone.

You are not alone. According to a study conducted by web research group, Baymard Institute, an average of 67.89% of shopping carts are abandoned by online shoppers.

And, sometimes visitors don’t even make it to the cart, before they’re gone. According to Monetate, in Q3 2013, only 5.31% of international visitors ever made it to the cart.

If your website has “abandonment issues,” there is hope. Following are 3 very powerful (and seriously underused) technologies that have been proven to convert lost visitors, retrieve lost marketing dollars, and, according to usage statistics, keep you way ahead of your competitors.

1. Exit-Intent Technology

Entice visitors to take action before they abandon your site.

If a visitor stands idle for 5 minutes on a page, there’s a big chance you will lose them as a customer.

Exit-intent technology may be the most valuable of these 3 technologies because you don’t have to wait until your visitors are long gone (when all you will be able to do is employ recovery tactics if you want to recapture them).

The best place to pull them back is on your page, before they leave in the first place. Exit-intent technology is a powerful proactive tool that eliminates the difficult step of trying to bring them back.

What Is Exit-Intent Technology?

Exit-intent technology is able to detect, through mouse movements and velocity, when a visitor is about to abandon a website, within milliseconds.

First, the technology tracks visitor activity. Then, using a predictive algorithm, it is able to detect abandoning visitors.

Finally, an attention-grabbing, last-chance offer is presented to the abandoning prospect, via an overlay, to bring them back.

This technology is so new that market leader, Bounce Exchange, was founded as recently as 2010. In fact, it’s pretty hard to find a lot of data on who’s using it.

Even Neil Patel has pointed out its underuse, saying, “One type of call to action that isn’t used a lot is an exit call to action.”

However, he’s one person who hasn’t neglected to reap its benefits. Neil uses exit-intent technology to keep his own visitors from abandoning his site.

neil patel contact

But then, he’s known to put new and innovative technologies to the test. That’s why he’s a leader in the online marketing space.

For example, here’s an exit-intent call to action he recently used to pull visitors back, just as it was detected they were abandoning his site.

In implementing it, Patel was able to generate a 46% increase in contact requests at neilpatel.com.

Now, these are not your average overlays (although, eConsultancy does report that even an average overlay will increase opt-ins by up to 400%).

These are better. Why? Because, as mentioned, these overlays are triggered just as mouse movements detect that a visitor is about to abandon. With them, you get one last chance to make an appeal and get your visitors back onboard. Without them, your visitors are gone.

Rooster has created and placed a robust (yet affordable) exit-intent solution on the market that helps business websites re-engage with abandoning visitors.

Case Study: XeroShoes Turns Skeptical Visitors into Sales

XeroShoes was founded in 2009 by Steven Sashen and Lena Phoenix. Steven had experienced a series of injuries after revisiting his longtime passion for running. Subsequently, a friend suggested that he become familiar with the benefits of barefoot running.

And the XeroShoes line of barefootware was born.

Steven knew this wasn’t a concept that would be easy to sell to everyone and took this into account in his overall website design and strategy. When it was detected that visitors were just about to abandon his site, they were presented with a free research report that detailed the benefits of being barefoot.

xero shoes

In Steven’s final attempt to re-engage and convince any skeptical visitors, this last-second offer prompted 2.5% of abandoning visitors to accept the barefoot benefits report. And, out of those who opted to receive it, 28.4% went on to make a purchase.

Here’s another example…

Case Study: A Last-Second Calculator Generates 300% More Sales Leads

Gr8tFires.co.uk is a UK based business that has been selling gas and wood-burning stoves and fireplaces for over 30 years.

Their goal was to sell more stoves. With a long sales cycle, they were looking for a way to educate visitors on the installation process and stay top of mind as a trusted advisor with their prospects.

To do so, Gr8Fires.co.uk provided visitors with an “installation calculator” that appeared just as they were about to leave the website.

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Implementing this last-second strategy generated a 300% increase in sales leads per month.

“Our customers are always shocked at the positive impact to their conversions and bottom line just by being able to re-engage their abandoning visitors.” ~ Jeremy Wallace / CEO Rooster

Rooster’s exit-intent tool really is a no brainer because you can try it free for 30 days to first gauge how it impacts your conversions. What do you really have to lose? Other than more visitors…

If you’re creative enough, you can implement any type of last-second incentive to pull abandoning visitors back. Discount codes, free ebooks, shopping cart reminders, contests, traffic shaping, and promo echo are all highly effective methods that keep visitors from leaving permanently.

As a smart marketer, you already know that keeping visitors from leaving your website in the first place is your first line of defense in managing visitor abandonment. Now, you can use exit-intent technology to effectively do so.

2. Persistent Cookies

Make sure visitors’ carts are intact when they decide to come back.

There’s been a lot of talk about ways to optimize your shopping cart for maximum conversions. But, sometimes it’s just not your fault that they leave. Your visitors are operating on their own schedule, not yours.

If you think all of your visitors are completing their orders right after they add an item to their carts, guess again. According to Emarketer, 56% percent of visitors intend to save their cart for later.

A portion of that cart abandonment rate you’ve been struggling with might not be abandonment at all, but rather a matter of your visitors’ own time schedules and priorities.

To break down the return pattern, a study by Scanalert tracked over 8 million consumers and discovered how long visitors were taking to return to their shopping carts.

how long do visitors take to return to their carts to complete a purchase

According to the study, 28% took more than a day to complete their order, 21% took more than 3 days, 14% took more than a week, and 4% took more than two weeks.

The University of Glasgow has published a report that states that 74% of online shoppers use their carts as “wish lists.”

When your visitors are ready to come back, it’s your job to make sure their shopping carts are still intact, ready, and waiting. If they’re gone, there’s a good chance your visitors won’t be willing to start all over again.

How do you make sure their carts are still there when they come back? By using persistent cookies.

What Are Persistent Cookies and How Do They Help Conversions?

Tracking cookies are small pieces of data that a website sends to the user’s browser where it is then stored as a text file. That file contains information that allows a site to remember the user’s preferences, set up automatic logins, and temporarily store items in shopping carts.

There are two types of time-length-determined cookies:

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  • Session cookies, also known as transient cookies, are “set” when someone visits a site. When the person disappears, so does the session cookie.
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  • Persistent cookies are set the first time someone visits a site. However, they remain there for a specific length of time – preferably at least 60 days – to meet the time it takes for some visitors to come back to their cart.

But not every website uses them…

How Many Websites Are Letting Their Visitor’s Carts Vanish into Thin Air?

W3Techs.com takes Alexa’s “Top 10 Million” ranked websites and visits, and then analyzes their technology usage. From that data, they are able to find out how many websites are using persistent cookies. Their data is updated daily.

As of March 1, 2014, 20.1% use persistent cookies. That’s an awfully low percentage. Worse yet, out of the 20.1% that actually use persistent cookies, 32.6% use cookies that expire in hours, and 31.7% use cookies that expire in days.

alexas top

Based on their numbers, only 7% of websites are equipped to keep shopping carts intact for shoppers who go back to checkout 1 week after they’ve placed an item in their cart. That’s a really small piece of the pie.

W3Techs stated that they don’t actually interact with the sites. Therefore, if logging in activates cookies or if activation occurs only after an item is placed in a cart, they don’t see that. So, this number may be a little low.

But, what if logging in or registering for an account is required to activate persistent cookies? Visitors become annoyed when they’re required to register for accounts. In fact, one website increased their revenue by $300,000,000 just by removing their “Register” button so that noncommittal visitors could shop freely without being forced into a relationship with the merchant.

Nevertheless, when top online retailers were studied by the E-tailing Group, 29% did not use persistent cookies. That number is still considerably low, especially when talking about top retailers.

top online retailers persistent cookie usage

If you’re one of the 29% who don’t use persistent cookies, unfortunately, it is your fault that visitors aren’t able to come back to a full cart.

If you are using persistent cookies, use them effectively. Don’t make it a requirement that visitors register to activate them or complete their purchase.

After doing some research on which shopping carts use persistent cookies and do so without requiring registration, it seems that the options are limited.

Most of the major platforms require visitor registration before persistent cookies are activated. In fact, Magento clearly defines how visitors must first register before persistent cookies are activated in a variety of scenarios.

In seems that 3DCart is one of the few major platforms that doesn’t require visitor registration or a login in order for persistent cookies to be activated.

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After researching their site (to make sure they weren’t excelling in this area but lacking in others), I found they seem to have pretty robust conversion friendly features. These include automated cart abandonment email follow-up, 1 page checkout, product reviews, and real-time order tracking, to name a few.

Your visitors have spoken: 56% of them are choosing to save their cart for later and shop at their own convenience. Here’s your chance to listen to them. Then, satisfy their need to complete their purchase on their own schedule.

They’ll thank you for it with a lower cart abandonment rate.

3. Ad Remarketing

Make sure you stay top of mind after visitors leave.

After browsing the web about a year ago, I began to notice a lot of ads were popping up from websites I had recently analyzed and audited.

I wondered, “Is this some strange coincidence?” (At the time, I had stepped back from PPC and SEO. In fact, I hadn’t even used pay-per-click for my own site in awhile, so I wasn’t up on the latest features that Google AdWords was offering.)

Come to find out, no, this isn’t a coincidence at all. It’s ad remarketing at work.

Ad remarketing, also known as ad retargeting, is when your ads are displayed to people who have visited your website, as they later browse through other sites on the web. In other words, your ads are following past visitors.

And here’s why it’s actually kind of brilliant…

There’s an old adage that consumers typically need to become familiar with your brand by having contact with it around 7 times before they feel comfortable enough to convert into an actual customer.

Now, this number isn’t set in stone; but, if presenting your business name a number of times creates stronger brand recognition, why would you pass up the opportunity to do so?

4 Out of 5 Online Marketers Are Missing the Remarketing Boat.

It’s a shame that more businesses aren’t harnessing the power of remarketing as a way to pull lost prospects back.

Remarketing is believed to be the most underused online marketing technology by 46% of search engine marketing professionals. And, according to Digiday, only one in five marketers has a dedicated budget for remarketing. Those are some surprisingly low statistics.

But Here Are Some Sweet Remarketing Statistics…

If you’re not using remarketing, reconsider. It’s being said that remarketing can boost ad response by up to 400%.

Data also is showing that display ads have an average click-through rate of .07, while remarketed ads have a click-through rate of .70 percent. That’s a whopping 10 times higher.

In fact, visitors who are served remarketed display ads are 70 percent more likely to convert.

What a marketer decides to do with their marketing budget gives a pretty good indication of how effectively it is working for them.

digital marketers future plans for Remarketing Budget

When digital marketers who use this technology were asked if they would increase or decrease their budget, 52% said they would increase their remarketing budget, while only 2.7% said they would decrease it, according to Digiday’s Retargeting Barometer Report. 43.1% said they’d keep it the same.

Google Shares Data on Some Very Successful Remarketing Campaigns:

Google’s Think Insights, a division of Google that provides insight and data to help online marketers grow their business, shared data on how a few businesses raised their conversions with Google’s Remarketing option.

Here are 2 very impressive examples…

Case Study: An $800 Retargeted Ad Investment Yields $60,000 in Revenue

Loews Hotels & Resorts offers a uniquely local experience with 19 hotels throughout the U.S. and Canada. They previously focused their marketing efforts in offline channels. However, it was difficult to gauge results and ROI compared with digital marketing.

In an effort to expand its audience and marketing dollars, Loews introduced Google’s remarketing feature to their AdWords campaign.

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With a heavy focus on the “similar audiences” feature, they were able to reach new potential customers whose profiles were similar to those on their remarketing list.

The results were staggering.

Loews vice president of e-commerce and distribution, Jimmy Suh, says remarketing was “one of our biggest successes” and a cost effective way to gain new customers and bookings with an investment of $800 generating $60,000 in revenue.

In other words, for every $133 spent, $10,000 in revenue was generated. That means that Google AdWords remarketing yielded Loews a 7400% return on investment.

Case Study: Tailored Remarketed Ads Convert 203% Higher than Display Ads

In an effort to boost brand awareness, Storkies Express used dynamic remarketing to attract past website visitors.

Storkies Express offers custom printed cards. To get consumers familiar with them, they focused on tailored ads to visitors who had visited specific pages on their website.

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These tailored ads resulted in conversion rates that were 203% higher than regular display ads and 119% higher than regular remarketing campaigns.

The Skinny on How Google AdWords Remarketing Works:

Google AdWords Remarketing is really simple to implement and provides a variety of options to remarket your website to visitors.

According to Google…

“Remarketing with Google starts with the remarketing tag which you implement once on your website. This one-time tag implementation allows you to create granular remarketing lists which you can use to create not only targeted display campaigns for specific segments of your audience, but also targeted search campaigns.”

For example, you can:

  • Encourage past site visitors to come back to your site with remarketing across the web
  • Optimize your search campaigns by tailoring bids and ads to past site visitors with remarketing lists for search ads
  • Find new people who share site characteristics with your high-value site visitors and introduce them to your site with similar audiences

Of course, if you can manage your Google AdWords remarketing campaigns on your own, there are no management costs for you.

If you’re looking to reach a broader audience, you also have a few more options…

Paid Remarketing Venues That Offer an Even Broader Reach:

Google AdWords isn’t the only platform that offers remarketing features. To get help reaching a broader audience, AdRoll claims to retain 97% of their customers by helping them remarket on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other popular global sites.

big tech companies

In fact, they’re able to reach 98% of the sites on the web that your visitors are surfing. And it seems to be very effective. Using the AdRoll remarketing platform, Michigan State University was able to generate $340 for every $1 spent. You can take it for a free test drive first to see how well their solution performs at bringing your abandoned prospects back.

So, follow your abandoned visitors around the web and let them know you’re still there. You’ve already laid the groundwork (and the money) to obtain their business.

Getting your name out there a second time gives you a second opportunity to turn abandoned visitors into paying customers.

Conclusion

Lost visitors are not a lost cause. The only real loss is if you haven’t provided the opportunity to pull them back for a second chance at becoming your customer.

Yes, it can take a lot of money to bring prospects to your website. And, yes, a lot of them will leave without ever buying anything. But if there are ways you can easily recapture their interest and their purchases, why wouldn’t you?

As you’ve read, many are converting the second time around. To maximize on retrieving lost visitors and lost marketing dollars, the formula is pretty simple…

Start by re-engaging visitors before they abandon your site. Next, be ready when they decide to come back to their carts. And, finally, stay top of mind after they leave your site.

It’s really that simple.

About the Author: Marie Dean is the Innovation Director at conversionlifters.com and has worked in the field of conversion optimization for over 10 years. She devotes her time to helping clients successfully raise their conversion rates through in-depth comprehensive website audits, analytics analysis, A/B split testing, and copywriting.

EP55: Patio11 on promoting your product

This week you’ll hear from Patrick Mackenzie (Patio11 on the internet), an influential member of the self-funded, bootstrapping community, as well as a high profile member of Hacker News. Patrick is a great guest: he’s a great storyteller, and is always completely himself. (He does some great voice impressions too)

Our topic was: how to market yourself, make connections, and promote that app, SaaS, or other product you’ve just built.

Notable quotes:

“I like to play League of Legends. The vast majority of people will never make a living off League of Legends. If you want to build your business on something like LoL, that’s probably not the best things.” – Patio11

“Self-promotion is not accepted by the community at every watering hole on the internet. Hacker News is a bit of an anomaly, because Hacker News is a community who are making or starting businesses.” – Patio11

“I haven’t submitted my stuff to Hacker News in years. I’m also really careful about what I publish. Before I publish a blog post, I ask: ‘Is this post worthy of being in the top 5 of Hacker News?’” – Patio11

“The Hacker News launch is like a mini version of the Techcrunch launch. But I wouldn’t bet the success of my business based on whether or not it gets to the top of Hacker News.” – Patio11

“My first internet business launched to a total of 76 people the first day. You can build your reputation organically, by building awesome things over time.” – Patio11

Show notes

A note from Justin:

A big thanks to Patrick for being on the show!

Cheers,
Justin Jackson
@mijustin

PS: I’m writing a new book right now called Marketing for DevelopersClick here to sign-up for updates (and get a sample PDF).

17 Advanced Methods for Promoting Your New Piece of Content

Some people have so much success with their content marketing strategies that they have hundreds of thousands of readers. Of course, great content is a big part of the equation, but the other, often overlooked area of content marketing is content promotion.

This post will cover some of the more advanced techniques for promoting your content. The most successful content marketers use them, and they are reaping all of the rewards.

Here is how you can attract scores of new visitors with your content:

1. Ask an Influencer for a Killer Quote

Before publishing your new piece of content, reach out to an influencer or influencers in your industry. Tell them the topic of your content and ask if they would be willing to provide a point of view.

You can reach influencers at scale with BuzzStream. Fill in information about a specific niche (keywords), and you’ll get tons of contact information for people in those niches. You’ll be able to contact them via email and social media, which will allow you to ask for quotes about your topics and for other information that we’ll talk about later in this post.

buzz stream

Here is a more detailed description of BuzzStream and how to use the tool.

If your piece of content is a blog post, put the quote in the post and add a link to the influencer’s website and social media accounts, such as Twitter. Once the article is published, email the influencer and tell them the content is published and ask them to share it on social media and possibly include it in their email newsletter.

This accomplishes two things: 1) you gain exposure to a new audience, and 2) your content becomes more reputable because you’re associating yourself with an influencer in your industry.

Reach out to multiple influencers. You probably won’t hear back from all of them, but you should hear back from at least one or two.

Here is a message template you can use:

2-new-message-to-infl

2. Create 20+ Snippets for Mega Sharing on Social Media

SEMrush pulled out a statistic for their snippet in this tweet.

A piece of content should produce 20+ snippets that you can share on social media. A snippet can be any of the following:

  • Variations of the title
  • Short statements from the content
  • Short quotes from the content
  • Statistics from the content
  • And much more

Go into your content and pull out at least 20 snippets. Then share the snippets on social media over the next several weeks or even months. If the content does well, continue using the snippets.

Additionally, there are a few WordPress plugins and tools that make it easy to tweet old content:

Buffer also is a great tool for sharing posts, new and old, on social media. You can queue an unlimited number of posts and set up custom schedules for the times you want to share them.

3. Mention Your Expert Sources When Sharing

Once your content is published, share it on social media and mention the people you’ve referenced. These can be part of the snippets you use from the previous section.

The people you mention will see that you’ve mentioned them and some will re-share.

Moz mentioned me when they shared this article.

4. Email Your Sources So They Read, Share, and Link to Your Content

Any time you mention someone, interview someone, include a link to someone’s article, etc., email that person to let them know you’ve done so.

Here is an email template you can use:

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Again, you might not get every person you mention to share the article, but one or two might, and that’s more than would have otherwise.

5. Direct Message Influencers on LinkedIn So They Read, Share, and Link to the Content

Getting into an influencer’s inbox is very powerful, but not always possible. With LinkedIn, you can get in an influencer’s inbox even if you don’t have their email address. However, you need to have a connection with them on LinkedIn first.

So, with your connections, work your way up the chain. Connect with the connections of influencers. It’s easier to become a connection with an influencer if you’re a 2nd degree connection.

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An even better way to connect with an influencer on LinkedIn is to look at their profile to find the groups they belong to. Join one of those groups. As a member of a shared group, you’ll be able to send a connection request.

Once you have connections with influencers, you can direct message them. Your connections will get a notice in their email inbox (depending on their settings).

Here is a potential message to send:

7-new-awesome-guide

6. Contact People Who Have Shared Similar Content

Contact people who have shared content similar to the item you just published.

While researching your content, you probably came across such articles. Take the URLs from those articles and search for them on sites like Twitter. You’ll be able to see the people who have shared them.

Connect with them and send them a direct message. Or, if they have a website, contact them via email or via a contact form and ask them to read and share your content.

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7. Contact People Who Have Linked to Similar Content

Find people who have linked to similar content, and contact them introducing your new (and better) content.

There are multiple tools that allow you to find links to a website or URL. Two of the best are Ahrefs and Open Site Explorer.

Identify content similar to yours. Copy the URL from these items and paste them into Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer. You’ll get a list of pages that have linked to these items. These will be your targets. To reach out and ask them to consider linking to your new (and better) content, go back to BuzzStream to find contact information.

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When you find a site that links to content similar to yours, reach out with this message (email, contact form, social media, etc.):

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8. Turn the Content into a Video to Appeal to a Totally Different Audience

Take your content (let’s say a blog post or a guide), and turn it into a video.

Publish it on YouTube, Vimeo, and other online video communities where there are millions of users looking for great videos. Optimize your video to gain more exposure.

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The service OneLoad makes it easy to distribute your video to the various video sites. You upload your video to OneLoad, and they deploy it to accounts on all major video websites, such as YouTube, Vimeo, Yahoo!, and more.

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You can turn content into video, but don’t overlook the fact that creating videos as your original form of content is potentially the best way to go. Once you record and publish a video, you can pull out the audio to create a podcast. You can pull out the transcription from the video to create a blog post and .pdf. You also can use the video content to create slideshows for SlideShare. Start with a video, and you can repurpose the content into many different forms for various communities.

People are watching more video now than ever before. Search engines recognize this trend, and they’re giving video more space in the search engine results pages.

Here is an example of this in action for the search “how do colors affect purchases”:

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You see the YouTube video result. The key to this result is not that you are the first result on the page. It’s that Google will include a thumbnail of the video, which increases click-through rate. You can attract a lot of additional clicks by having your videos show up in the search results even if you don’t rank in the first or second position.

9. Turn the Content into a Slide Deck to Attract another Audience

Turn your content into a slide deck on SlideShare. It’s estimated that SlideShare receives tens of millions of unique visitors each month. That’s one of the biggest audiences on the web. According to Alexa, it’s in the Top 150 sites in the world.

Optimize the title and description. SlideShare also will transcribe the deck for you so all of your content can be crawled by search engines like Google and Bing.

SlideShare presentations, like YouTube videos, often rank very high in search results so you’re giving your content an even better chance of being found, and you’re repurposing your original piece into another format that targets another audience which may not have seen your content.

Here are a few resources for using SlideShare effectively:

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It’s easy to turn webinars into decks, but you can do the same with blog posts, videos, and more.

As with all of the different forms of content that you create, upload your slideshow to different slideshow sites and communities online. Include a link back to your site and original content. Here are places to upload your slideshow:

10. Turn the Content into a .pdf

Use a .pdf as an opt-in to capture email leads on your website.

Hire a designer using a freelance website like Microlancer. They can create a .pdf template that represents your brand. Then send them a transcription of your content and have them paste it into the template.

The first template design might cost up to $200, but it should be less for future items that use the same template.

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As with other content formats, you’ll want to share your .pdf content on .pdf sites and communities. Optimize the descriptions on these sites so you get links back to your site and original content.

Here are a few places to upload your .pdf:

11. Add a Link to Your New Content from Your Most Popular Archived Content

Go to your analytics program of choice and look for the most popular pages on your website. Don’t look at the all-time most popular pages because those can be skewed to older content. You want to highlight the content that is being heavily trafficked right now. So, look over the last six months or even the last month.

Next, use Social Crawlytics to determine your most shared content. To use the tool, you’ll type in your URL to find the most shared content on your site.

Next, on the most trafficked and shared pages on your site, add links to your new content. You can add links within the text. You also can put an advertisement in the sidebar or put a related content section at the bottom of the page, like this:

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You can use sections below previous posts or add links within the content.

12. Submit to Content Communities

There are a number of sites that allow you to submit your content so their established audience has the opportunity to see it. The competition is strong on these sites, but if your content is exceptional (which you should always shoot for), you’ll likely attract some attention and get some good traffic.

Sites to submit content to include:

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With Blog Engage, you can submit your content to be seen by a large audience.

13. Promote the Content on StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery Service

StumbleUpon has a great paid discovery service that is perfect for content. Use this service to promote your new piece of content. You’ll pay for each visitor.

StumbleUpon users can be picky and they can make quick decisions about the content they see. Make sure your content has a clear and interesting title along with some kind of image at the top so you can intrigue the StumbleUpon audience.

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StumbleUpon can send more traffic to your content than other popular social networks.

14. Create Content Ads on Outbrain

Outbrain is a service that promotes content on other pieces of content. For example, if you’ve read articles on a publication site like Fast Company, you’ve probably seen sections below the articles that promote other content.

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When people are finished reading, they look for more content.

You can use Outbrain to bring lots of traffic to your content. The cost per click is relatively low compared with other advertising platforms, and you can target your ideal audience. It’s a good way to attract people who already are engaged with content similar to yours.

There are additional services like Outbrain that you can use as well:

15. Turn Your Content into a Killer Magazine on Flipboard

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Sign up for the Flipboard app on your smartphone or tablet. You also can sign up on the Flipboard website using Facebook or Google sign-in. Next, install the Flipboard bookmarklet for Chrome. Go to the URL of your content and add it to your new Flipboard magazine.

Collect the best content for your niche, both yours and other great content, to create an amazing collection of content. Flipboard turns the content into a beautiful magazine that is a pleasure to read on a smartphone or tablet. Millions search for content within the app. By creating a must-see magazine with fresh, relevant content, you’ll attract readers.

You can mention other Flipboard users within the app to let them know you’ve included their content in your magazine, and you can mention other users to let them know they might be interested in checking out your magazine.

Big time brands like Inc., Fast Company, Huffington Post, NPR, and more all share content on Flipboard, and you can take advantage of the opportunity, too.

16. Publish Snippets on Sulia to Share with Millions

Sulia is a content-sharing site where the pressure is on your headlines and descriptions to capture the attention of the millions who use the site to find content.

Sign up for a Sulia account. Add the URL to your content. Create a catchy headline and catchy description. Then share the content with people on the site who are interested in your niche.

Sulia is perfect for using snippets from your content to get attention.

In the example below, Ad Age shared a video featuring Gary Vaynerchuk. They could have shared just the video with a basic headline and description, but they used a quote from the video in the description.

Quotes, statistics, and more can increase clicks from content-sharing sites like Sulia.

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17. Share the Content on Your Tumblr Feed

Here’s an example of a niche business using Tumblr: Writer’s Relief. The company uploads regular content to Tumblr. The majority of the content they upload consists of photos, illustrations, and other visual items. You can see that these items (and the items Writer’s Relief shares from its own website and blog) are shared by followers.

Here are two ways to share content on Tumblr:

First, include a link with each of your updates. Make it a call-to-action. Your followers will see the link, and so will the people who follow the people who re-share your update.

Second, when you share content, include links in the first couple of paragraphs. Here is an example from Writer’s Relief:

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See that link to “self-published” in the first sentence? That link is shared not only on Writer’s Relief’s Tumblr page, but also on the Tumblr pages of the other 67 people who shared it. That’s potential for a lot of links.

With this strategy, you get a link to your main content (which, in this case, was a blog post) and to another piece of content because you put in a link early in the post.

The Takeaway

In order for your content marketing strategy to succeed, you need to increase your promotion efforts. The methods outlined above are the same strategies used by the most successful content marketers in the world. Now it’s your turn to build a big audience.

Tell Us What You Think

Did we leave out an interesting or under-the-radar promotion strategy that you’ve had success with? Please share your advice in the comments. We want to hear from you so this list can be expanded!

About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, their Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Small business book review #4 – Influence by Robert Cialdini

A big, friendly WP Curve welcome to our friend, Eric Conley. In this post, Eric will share how Robert Cialdini’s book Influence helped him improve his fitness, make new friends and even learn the piano.

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influenceSkill building is not a matter of “working harder” — instead it is the result of habits and psychological influence.  The best in their field recognize the power of daily marginal gains and enjoy the process, versus the result.  It boils down to this:

Don’t improve yourself. Let enjoyment improve you.

Robert Cialdini wrote a masterful book on the art of persuasion, entitled Influence.

In this post, I’ll walk through each chapter and provide real-life examples that combine skill-building with persuasion — including the art of storytelling from top comedians, achieving peak fitness, and overcoming the “terrible twos” as a parent.

Don’t improve yourself. Let enjoyment improve you. @wpcurve – CLICK TO TWEET

Chapter 1: Weapons of Influence

“A nice demonstration of perceptual contrast is sometimes employed in psychophysics laboratories to introduce students to the principle firsthand. Each student takes a turn sitting in front of three pails of water—one cold, one at room temperature, and one hot. After placing one hand in the cold water and one in the hot water, the student is told to place both in the lukewarm water simultaneously. The look of amused bewilderment that immediately registers tells the story: Even though both hands are in the same bucket, the hand that has been in the cold water feels as if it is now in hot water, while the one that was in the hot water feels as if it is now in cold water. The point is that the same thing—in this instance, room-temperature water—can be made to seem very different, depending on the nature of the event that precedes it.”

This all about context.  Ever tell a “had to be there” story and watch the eyes of the audience gloss over when delivering the punch line?  Talented comedians understand the importance of build up and provide context that keeps their audience engaged.

In fact, the best comedians hone their skills by re-telling their jokes hundreds of times — all while testing their delivery, tonality and words to determine the absolute best version.  Prime examples include Chris Rock and Aziz Ansari who go on small, private tours to perfect their work for prime-time audiences.

People looking to improve their social skills can learn from comedians through their own testing. For instance, how many times has someone asked you, “What do you do?”.  If you’re like most people, you stumble through the answer and quickly lose the interest of your audience.  However, if you approach this question as a comedian, you could test different responses and mentally note their reactions.  Once you’ve had a handful of conversations you’ll quickly learn the best answer and then work on perfecting your response.

Chapter 2: Reciprocation: The Old Give and Take… and Take

“A student in one of my classes expressed it quite plainly in a paper she wrote: “After learning the hard way, I no longer let a guy I meet in a club buy my drinks because I don’t want either of us to feel that I am obligated sexually.” Research suggests that there is a basis for her concern. If, instead of paying for them herself, a woman allows a man to buy her drinks, she is immediately judged (by both men and women) as more sexually available to him.”

As a form of introduction, it is common practice for a guy to buy drinks for a girl.  However, future expectations tend to vary between the two.  A guy will buy drinks for a girl he has physical interest in.  Meanwhile, the girl perceives the drink as “free” even if the guy is unappealing.  This difference often leads to disappointment as the guy believes he is “owed” something beyond a conversation.

The male audience can use the rule of reciprocity to hone their social skills by implementing a few tweaks at the bar.  To set expectations — which at this point should be conservative — the male should offer to buy drinks with a caveat.  Instead of saying, “Can I buy you a drink?”, say, “I’d like to get to know you better.  Do you want to grab a drink?”  By stating your intent and offering to grab a drink, versus buy, you show genuine interest without coming off too strong.

Chapter 3: Commitment and Consistency: Hobgoblins of the Mind

“If I can get you to make a commitment (that is, to take a stand, to go on record), I will have set the stage for your automatic and ill-considered consistency with that earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand.”

The website Stickk was created based on this principle.  Stickk empowers you to better your lifestyle through ‘Commitment Contracts’ by proving to yourself (and others) the value you place on achieving your goals.  Once a person creates a contract on stickk, they assign accountability — and a potential fine — by notifying their friends, family and the public of their obligations.

Although unrelated to direct skill development, I have used stickk to give up alcohol for one month in both 2013 and 2014.  By making this public commitment, I freed my schedule from bar hopping and hangovers and instead pursued an interest that I’d had for years — piano lessons.

Chapter 4: Social Proof: Truths Are Us

“Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.”

– Cavett Robert, Sales and Motivation Consultant, providing advice to sales trainees

It’s no secret that people are influenced by others — but to many, the degree of social impact is generally unknown.  Consider promoters of bars and nightclubs who create the perception of popularity with velvet ropes and lines outside their door.  Or, the presumed quality when a business has thousands of “Likes” on their Facebook account.  Without further thought, people automatically assume that “this place MUST be good”.

As a CrossFit instructor, I see social proof daily.  New members come through the door for the first time because of 1) a friend told them about CrossFit, or 2) they saw the reviews on our Yelp! page.  In fact, I started CrossFit because a friend encouraged me to try a WOD (Workout of the Day) with him.  Having no idea what CrossFit was, or the ridiculous acronym, I said “yes” because I trusted my friend.  This has inherent benefits — four years later, I am in the best physical shape of my life.

Chapter 5: Liking: The Friendly Thief

“There is a man in Detroit, Joe Girard, who specialized in using the liking rule to sell Chevrolets.  He became wealthy in the process, making more than two hundred thousand a year.  With such a salary, we might guess that he was a high-level GM executive or perhaps the owner of a Chevrolet dealership.  But no.  He made his money as a salesman on the showroom floor.  At what he did, he was phenomenal.  For twelve years straight, he won the title as the “number one car salesman”; he averaged more than five cars and trucks sold everyday he worked; and he has been called the “greatest car salesman” by the Guinness Book of World Records.

For all his success, the formula he employed was surprisingly simple.  It consisted of offering people just two things: a fair price and someone they liked to buy from.  “And that’s it,” he claimed in an interview.  “Finding the salesman they like, plus the price; put them together, and you get a deal.”

The case study on Joe Girard depicts his efforts on being likable then sales.  Only after he establishes a relationship does he work towards a deal.  Of the noted characteristics Cialdini cites to being likable (Physical Attractiveness, Similarity, Compliments, Contact and Cooperation, Conditioning and Association) Joe Girard exploited Compliments.  Every month, he would send a holiday greeting card to each one of his 13,000 former customers.

Joe’s case study is specific to car sales, but the characteristics of becoming likable will make your life easier.  In September 2012, I moved from a small rural town in Ohio to Houston.  During this time I unknowingly adapted some of Cialdini’s characteristics to quickly build a close group of friends.  For example, I praised the Houston Rodeo and eating crawfish — events that can only be found in Texas — which ‘Complimented’ my new social circle who are originally from the area.

Providing compliments is just as important in the business world.  For example, 5-star restaurants and hotels will often provide a handwritten note to their guests.  This proves to be effective as one of my close friends continually chooses Del Frisco’s over other steakhouses because of the ‘Thank You’ card he receives (and also posts on social media).

Chapter 6: Authority: Directed Deference

“To twenty-two separate nurses’ stations on various surgical, medical, pediatric, and psychiatric wards, one of the researchers made an identical phone call in which he identified himself as a hospital physician and directed the answering nurse to give twenty milligrams of a drug (Astrogen) to a specific ward patient.  There were four excellent reasons for a nurse’s caution in response to this order: (1) The prescription was transmitted by phone, in direct violation of hospital policy. (2) The medication itself was unauthorized; Astrogen had not been cleared for use nor placed on the ward stock list. (3) The prescribed dosage was obviously and dangerously excessive.  The medication containers clearly stated that the “maximum daily dose” was only ten milligrams, half of what had been ordered. (4) The directive was given by a man the nurse had never met, seen, or even talked with before on the phone.  Yes, in 95 percent of the instances, the nurses went straightaway to the ward medicine cabinet, where they secured the ordered dosage of Astrogen and started for the patient’s room to administer it.  It was at this point that they were stopped by a secret observer, who revealed the nature of the experiment.”

Reading this Chapter on Authority was cause for a watchful eye when I came into contact with someone that wore a uniform — doctor, military, police, etc.  I noticed that myself and others immediately fell victim to the presumed authoritative figure(s) even though they are just like us outside of their uniform.

That said, perceived authority is oftentimes deserved authority:

“After all, as Milgram himself suggests, conforming to the dictates of authority figures has always had a genuine practical advantage for us.  Early on, these people (for example, parents, teachers) knew more than we did, and we found that taking their advice proved beneficial — partly because of their greater wisdom and partly because they controlled our rewards and punishment.”

Recognizing authority as a positive, I hired a piano instructor whose knowledge far exceeds mine.  I understood that I could teach myself with unlimited resources, including free options, but wanted a professional whose expertise could accelerate my development.  Six weeks into my lessons I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

Beyond hobbies, top-performing entrepreneurs, surgeons and educators utilize coaches to master their craft.  Having an expert authority figure offer a second opinion will guide your business to break through periods of stagnation.

Chapter 7: Scarcity: The Rule of the Few

“One Virginia-based study nicely captured the terrible twos style among boys who averaged twenty-four months in age. The boys accompanied their mothers into a room containing two equally attractive toys. The toys were always arranged so that one stood next to a transparent Plexiglas barrier and the other stood behind the barrier. For some of the boys, the Plexiglas sheet was only a foot tall—forming no real barrier to the toy behind, since the boys could easily reach over the top. For the other boys, however, the Plexiglas was two feet tall, effectively blocking the boys’ access to one toy unless they went around the barrier. The researchers wanted to see how quickly the toddlers would make contact with the toys under these conditions. Their findings were clear. When the barrier was too small to restrict access to the toy behind it, the boys showed no special preference for either of the toys; on the average, the toy next to the barrier was touched just as quickly as the one behind. But when the barrier was big enough to be a true obstacle, the boys went directly to the obstructed toy, making contact with it three times faster than with the unobstructed toy. In all, the boys in this study demonstrated the classic terrible twos’ response to a limitation of their freedom: outright defiance.”

In the above example, the mediator simply removed barriers that allowed the child to make their own decision.  When people — children or adults — are given the freedom to choose without restraint, they’re more likely to place equal value on their available options.

Ramit Sethi, founder of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, utilizes scarcity in his unusual pricing strategy.  Everyday consumers are unable to purchase his products.  In fact, only after months of subscribing to his blog posts are you able to purchase his material during a shortened launch period.  By placing a time restraint on purchasing the product, Ramit successfully prompts prospective customers and turns them into paying customers.

Epilogue: Instant Influence: Primitive Consent for an Automatic Age

“When making a decision, we will less frequently enjoy the luxury of a fully considered analysis of the total situation but will revert increasingly to a focus on a single, usually reliable feature of it.”

– Robert Cialdini

In order to achieve rapid skill development, it is important to recognize the power of persuasion in today’s ever-complex world.  Creating an influential environment will always trump the notion of “working hard(er)” as willpower is reduced with each decision.  Knowing this, it is important to  recognize our brain as a muscle with limited energy and create influences to achieve our goals.

How many people claim they want to lose weight, learn a new language or play the guitar?  While so many people wish, there are a few who put forth the effort — only to fizzle out a few weeks later.  In the end its just a tiny population that achieve their goals.

Being aware of Cialdini’s set of influential triggers, we can implement systems to guarantee success — in life and business.  Influence has helped me achieve peak physical shape, play the piano and have the confidence to approach anyone in a social setting.

My question for you is, with Cialdini’s principles in mind, what will you do differently to achieve your goal?

The post Small business book review #4 – Influence by Robert Cialdini appeared first on WP Curve.

Training course update

I ran my second ‘Start your own software business’ course over the weekend of 22/23 March. Here is what some of the attendees had to say:

“I thought I knew most things about setting up and running an ISV but Andy filled in all the gaps and taught me stuff I hadn’t even thought about! I would, without hesitation, recommend this course (which is great value) to anyone thinking of starting a small software company or even an existing company that wants to ensure they give their business the best chance for success. Well done Andy!”
Anonymous (gainfully employed)

Roger Pearson“PC Pro magazine (not easy to impress) gave PerfectTablePlan a glowing review. That gives you some idea of Andy’s talent for programming and marketing. His weekend training program allows the attendees to garner his expertise for themselves and their software projects. Andy knows his subject – his experience is extensive, practical and hard-earned. I have run 2 successful small software business in the past. By attending his course I wanted to find out from someone who was actually doing it today, how I could apply techniques and best practice to my next software project. Did I succeed? Without a doubt. Andy was meticulous in his planning of the event and thorough in his presentation. I couldn’t ask for more. Top marks. I recommend Andy’s course to anyone venturing into the world of running a small software business.”
Roger Pearson

Derek Ekins“I recently attended Andy Brice’s “Start your own software business” course. Andy teaches some very practical skills to evaluate your idea, find if there is a market and launch your product. Behind most of the topics Andy had a story of how this particular lesson was learnt and how he has successfully implemented it. I now feel I am equipped with some practical knowledge of how to launch a software product. Thanks Andy.”
Derek Ekins

I will be following all their progress with interest.

I hope to run the course again in 2014. If you are interested in attending, please fill in the form on the training page.


Filed under: marketing, microISV, software, training Tagged: course, marketing, microISV, mISV, product, software, startup, training

5 simple triggers to write better content, faster

Writers who frequently produce long-form, high quality content fascinate me.

Three noteworthy writers I wanted to learn from are Neil Patel, Tim Ferriss and my co-founder Dan Norris. They share an incredible knack for producing long-form content at a breakneck pace. Truthfully – I’m green with envy and wanted to find a way to create better content, faster.

So, I did my homework.

little girl  thinking or dreaming during preparing homework

Writers who frequently produce long-form, high quality content fascinate me @wpcurve - CLICK TO TWEET

Studying the gurus

Tim Ferriss gets into his writing zone in the wee hours of the morning. He takes detailed notes and has over 20 handwritten journals and a jam-packed Evernote app. His books and blog articles are research and case study intensive, so his system of synthesizing convoluted concepts into digestible chunks is his secret sauce.

Neil Patel blocks out 4 hours twice a week to create a rough, 2000 – 3000 word blog post draft in Microsoft Word about a hot topic in content marketing or SEO. During this Mixergy interview [80:25] – he admitted that his spelling and grammar is terrible, but that doesn’t slow him down when it comes to writing content. He uses an editor to upload to WordPress, format and find images so he can focus on what he’s good at.

I’ve known my co-founder Dan to pump out up to 2,000 (rough) words in an hour. His typing speed is truly phenomenal and he’s replaced the keyboard on his Macbook Air a number of times. He’s well-practiced, with over 500,000 words of content produced in the last 6 years. He was also voted Australia’s best business blogger in 2013, which means his content is very useful and actionable to business owners.

After studying each of these writers in depth for hours, I realized that while I can try and emulate their approach – I can’t copy them. An approach to writing needs to be tailor-made to your writing style, schedule and mere mortal typing speed.

Here are 5 triggers to add to your writing arsenal.

1. Make your content priority #1

calendarThere are dozens of semi-urgent tasks that steal your attention and energy as a business owner every day. Taxes, payroll, staff management, live chat and an inbox that’s bursting with unread emails.

You need to ignore this (temporarily).

Take a leaf out of Neil Patel’s book and specifically block out time in your day to write content. I recommend blocking out an hour of time in the most productive part of your day.

You can start with one slot, one day a week, but as you gain momentum and start to enjoy your hour of power – you will find yourself with 4 or 5 blocks of content creation time magically appearing in your calendar.

Don’t let content slip down your list of priorities – it’s high leverage and a business builder.

2. Go off the grid

It’s one thing to set aside time to research, write and edit… it’s another thing to be disciplined and actually use that time. The truth is – the attention-grabbing, energy-sucking tasks that you wade through every day can be pushed back, at least for an hour or two every day.

Didn’t reach inbox zero? Boohoo! There’s always tomorrow.

A few tips to really narrow your focus:

  • Use airplane mode on your phone, so your notifications don’t activate your monkey brain
  • Shut down any browser or applications that aren’t directly related to writing (except your favorite music app, of course!)
  • Run a time tracking app like Rescuetime – the paid version includes a site blocker for Facebook / Twitter / Linkedin / Buzzfeed etc

Now it’s just you and a blinking cursor.

3. Get organized

A lot of new writers miss this step. When I do, I start over.

Instead of blindly writing with no real outcome in mind, try and come up with the following outline before you start writing your content.

1. Write 3 – 5 post titles
2. Write subheadings for each section of your post
3. Spend 5 – 10 minutes researching each subheading
4. Jot down ideas, links and other tidbits of information under each subheading

Once you have these pointers in place, you’ve done 80% of the hard work.

It takes some practice and discipline, but once you get in the habit of setting up a post outline – you’ll wonder how you ever got the job done without one.

4. Find a production method that works for you

Billy Murphy explained that it takes him over 30 hours to write a 6,000 word blog post. He also highlighted the fact that it takes him about 8 minutes to talk through it.

That’s why I like using Siri for transcribing the spoken word. She will misinterpret 10% of what you say, but that’s OK. If you’re comfortable in front of the camera, you can also consider creating video content and including transcriptions like our friend James Schramko does over at Super Fast Business.

It’s easy to get started, here’s a resource to get your ‘studio’ lighting right for under $100.

5. Seek real feedback

The second most important part of the content production process is peer review. The good cop (the writer) shares a post in a Google document with the bad cop (the reviewer).

One way to handle the review process is by either allowing reviews to right click and comment. Another way is using this nifty Track Changes Plugin for Google docs.

By this stage, you’re probably attached to your piece of content – so beware of hurt feelings. Trust your reviewer and you will find that they are not criticizing you – they are critiquing your work in the hope they can improve it.

Pay an editor or ask a good writer to cast a critical eye over your work, but before you do, objectively answer the following questions about your post.

Mandatory

Is the content…

1. Easy to read?
2. Worth sharing?
3. Packing an eye-catching headline?

Optional – (at least two)

Is the content…

1. Useful?
2. Valuable?
3. Actionable?
4. Evergreen (bonus points)?

You will be creating content like a machine in no time!

Your thoughts

What helps you write better content, faster?

PS – this 980 word post took 2 hours of effort to produce… the system works!

The post 5 simple triggers to write better content, faster appeared first on WP Curve.