Think all a farmer has to do is wait until fall to harvest truckloads of delicious tomatoes or corn or squash? Think again! That farmer has worked hard all year long to prepare for that week or two of reward.
He prepared the ground following last year’s harvest.
He planted seeds in the spring.
He watered and fertilized and protected his fragile crops from pests and drought and poor weather.
And finally, after months of work, he enjoys the results.
Your business works the same way, and if you take a page from the farmer’s playbook, you’ll soon be reaping the rewards, too.
Preparing the Ground
This is your brand, your voice, your very presence in your market. If you’re just starting out—like that farmer after his harvest—you’ll spend your time simply becoming known.
Hang out with other professionals in your niche. Join forums where your ideal clients spend their time. Build a website and start your mailing list. This is the prep work that will form the foundation of a solid business in the future.
Planting the Seeds
Your seeds are your content and products. With each blog post you write, every product you create, you’re planting a seed you can harvest later. But unlike the farmer, your seeds will produce over and over again, endlessly.
In fact, you’ll likely find that blog posts you wrote years ago will continue to bring in new clients year after year, with no further help from you. Products can be sold over and over again, or reworked into new offers. Podcasts, videos, ebooks and more all continue to work for you, month after month, year after year.
When you think about it that way, it’s easy to see that planting seeds is a critical part of every business.
Nurturing Your Crop
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just “set it and forget it”? Unfortunately, that style of business rarely works.
Instead, you must spend time nurturing.
It doesn’t take much effort to update your blog posts or tweak your products, and the rewards can be fantastic.
Of course, being a farmer is a long-term investment. The work you do today may not pay off for weeks or months to come. But with a strong history of consistent “farming” in your business, you’ll soon see that those long-term rewards are paying off consistently as well.
Tell us how you are nurturing your business, Nameste Deb
We’ve all lost clients. Sometimes it’s our fault. Sometimes it’s theirs. Sometimes it’s out of everyone’s control.
But no matter the reason, there is something to be learned from a lost client. A system to review lost clients will help keep your business improving and growing.
Typically done when you leave a job, an exit interview is also a great way to review what went right—and what went wrong—during your relationship. You’ll want to review:
This is not the time to get defensive. Be open to her criticism (if there is any) and use the information to genuinely improve your business.
Be Honest With Yourself
One of the most common reasons for client loss is that the customer is simply not a good fit. Maybe you suspected it when she signed up, or maybe not, but now that she has moved on, ask yourself:
If you can identify a bad client match from the start and decline the work (or better still, refer her to another professional who is a good fit) you’ll find you have a lot less stress in your day-to-day business.
Sometimes, client loss is as simple as a lack of understanding on your client’s part. Do you clearly state:
Do you also have a system for staying in touch with a client who has gone quiet? Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to get your wayward client back on track. Many client relationships have been salvaged with a simple phone call or email, so if you haven’t heard from a client in a while, pick up the phone.
Here’s the bottom line: Client loss happens. But if you can learn from each client, and use that intel to improve your business, then even a lost client can be turned into new profits.
Share your stories of lessons learned from lost clients, Coach Deb
For a business owner with a solid funnel in place, it’s easy to take a look at the number of subscribers at each level of the funnel and predict pretty accurately what the sales are going to be from day to day or week to week.
If you’ve got a funnel in place, though, and your numbers aren’t looking great, chances are you have a leak somewhere. Your funnel has a hole (or two or three) where subscribers are falling through. There are four common causes for funnel leaks, and once you spot them, they’re pretty easy to fix.
Not enough traffic. The very heart of your sales funnel is the traffic you bring in. Without visitors to your blog or opt-in pages, you’ll have no subscribers. Without subscribers, you’ll have no (or very few) sales. Without sales, you’ll have no business. Yet this is where a lot of people struggle. How can you get more eyes on your content and more subscribers into your funnel?
How to fix it: Traffic generation is an entire industry of its own, but here are some tips: Use good SEO to encourage search engines to rank your content well. Be present and active in the places where your ideal reader hangs out, whether that’s on social media, in niche forums, or at live events. Use paid ads to drive targeted traffic to highly relevant pages. Recruit JV partners and affiliates to promote your offers. Buy solo ads in related email newsletters.
No follow-up. This is a leaky funnel mistake that a lot of new entrepreneurs make. They spend a lot of time and energy setting up a great squeeze page and driving traffic to it, then they deliver the goods to their subscribers, and then…nothing. No follow-up emails. No offers to buy more. No related services or products. Nothing.
How to fix it: Before you spend time building that opt-in page or offer, be sure you have a back-end to promote, or those subscribers you so carefully collected will end up costing you money instead of earning it back.
No call-to-action. This happens most typically at the top of the funnel. Your blog posts, social media content, podcasts, YouTube videos—everything you offer for free—must have some kind of call-to-action, or it’s all just wasted energy. Your call-to-action can be as simple as “Subscribe to my YouTube channel” or “Follow me on Facebook for more tips,” but it must be there.
How to fix it: Every time you write a blog post or an email, as yourself, “What do I want my readers to do when they’re done reading/listening/watching this?” That becomes your call to action.
No product offers. When you’re just starting out, this can be a problem. You know you need to be building a mailing list, but with nothing to offer them, what’s the point? The truth is, there are lots of ways to make money in your funnel even if you don’t have a product to sell.
How to fix it: Promote affiliate offers. No matter what industry you’re in, there are a variety of tools and products your readers need. Find those tools, sign up for the affiliate programs, and recommend them to your readers. Not only will your readers thank you for pointing them in the right direction, but you’ll earn a little cash, too.
Got a leaky funnel? With a few tweaks and some attention paid to your follow-up sequences, chances are you can fix those holes and increase your profits in no time.
Leave your comments and suggestions below, Coach Deb
Confused about how exactly sales funnels work? You’re not alone. In fact, that’s the number one reason small business owners say they can’t get their funnels set up—they simply don’t know what to include where.
Here’s the easy answer: At the very least, your sales funnel needs three pages.
This one obviously comes first. You might call it a landing page, or in the case of a free opt-in, a squeeze page. It serves one purpose—to get the reader to take action. Whether that’s to buy a product or offer up their email address in exchange for a free gift, this is the gateway into your funnel. Everything that follows depends on this page, so you want to be sure you:
Include a clear call to action—“Buy Now” or “Click here to download this report for free”
Eliminate distractions—that means no links to other websites or even a navigation bar
Address the readers’ pain points and how your offer provides the solution
Here’s where we ask the reader to confirm their intent. For a sales funnel, this confirmation page might actually be your checkout page. It’s where they enter their payment details. For a free offer, it’s simply the page your email management system directs them to next. It’s a holding page, if you will, while you wait for them to confirm their email address.
If you’re setting up a free funnel, this page has great power—and you don’t want to waste it!
Here is where you can offer an upset, remind people to follow you on social media, and give them a peak at your other products and services.
Remember, though, that they will only see this page once, so don’t put anything here that they will need to refer back to. That’s what the thank you page is for.
Thank You Page
This is where they actually collect their downloadable item, or get information about how your product will be delivered.
Like the confirmation page, this is valuable real estate, so you want to be sure you use it wisely. In addition to the downloadable item your customer just purchased (or opted in for) you also want to showcase your other offers—especially those at a slightly higher price point. Here’s why: the person looking at this page is a hot prospect. He or she is in a buying mood. You want to be sure to take advantage of that by putting your most relevant offers on this page. To encourage buying, consider including:
A limited time offer—scarcity sells, so if you can legitimately limit sales to a few hours/days or number of units, then this is the place to do so.
A “no brainer” coupon offer—an insider’s only deal can be a powerful motivator, especially if it’s a fantastic price.
Extra bonuses--give them access to additional products/services if they buy through your link on that page. These should be bonuses that aren’t advertised on the public sales page for that product. Again—insider’s deals are motivating!
Putting together a sales funnel isn’t complicated—or at least it doesn’t have to be. As your business grows and you have more products to offer, you can expand your funnel to include more up-sells and down-sells, but for now, this simple setup is really all you need.
What's your favorite sales funnel tip? Coach Deb
The web pages that make up your sales or opt-in funnel are only the beginning. To truly encourage sales, you need to stay in contact with your readers. The easiest way to do that is through your email manager, by sending periodic emails with various related offers.
Let’s take a look at a typical follow-up sequence for a free opt-in series. In this case, your reader has attended a free webinar that promoted a high-ticket training program. In the days that follow, you’ll want to stay in contact with an autoresponder sequence that automatically sends email at specific intervals.
Email 1: This is going to be the first email that goes out after they confirm. It should give the reader access to your free webinar, so that can be a link to the replay, or that instructions to join you for the live event. You will likely also want to include a couple of reminder emails if they event is live.
Email 2: This is the replay email for a live event, or the first follow-up if the original was a replay. In this email, it’s a good idea to offer few bullet points of what they learned, encouragement to watch the replay (if you can legitimately say it’s only available for the next XX days, even better), plus an offer to purchase the training program.
Email 3: A few days later, you’ll want to follow-up again. This time, consider including a case study of someone who used your training program. When combined with a great offer, reading about the results someone else achieved can be a powerful motivator.
Email 4: Use this follow-up message to remind readers that the replay is going away (if it is), and also to answer any objections. For example, you might list some FAQs or even questions you’ve received about your refund policy, who the program is for, or payment options. Remind them about the offer.
Email 5: This is your final reminder that the offer is going away soon. At this point, you may want to encourage the reader to email you with questions (if you have the systems in place to manage a lot of email, that is).
Email 6 and beyond: If your reader reaches this point without buying, then it may be that your product is just not right for her. From this point forward, you should continue to stay in contact by offering great information, case studies, tips and other interesting content, but also to offer other products that might be of interest.
One important thing to remember about this email sequence: if your reader buys your program at any point, you must remove her from this sequence. It will make no sense for her to get email #5 with that final offer reminder if she purchased your program after email #3. Most autoresponder services, such as AWeber, have automation built in that allows you to move subscribers from one list to another based on their actions, so be sure to set that up as you’re building your funnel emails.
This kind of hand’s off approach to email marketing is what will help you build a true passive sales funnel, so look for opportunities to use this system as you build your business.
Tell us, what do you think? Coach Deb
Ready to start building out your sales funnels? There are just a few things you need before you can get started. Here are some of the most popular options when it comes to putting together both free and paid funnels:
Lead Pages--when it comes to building opt-in pages, LeadPages.net is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal. They’ve tracked and tested a variety of page styles to determine which ones convert best, and they make it easy for you to build similar pages for your funnel.
It does come with a monthly fee, though, so before investing, you’ll want to be sure you can recoup your investment.
Instabuilder—similar to LeadPages, but without the monthly investment. Instabuilder is a plugin for WordPress that allows you to create your own funnels. It includes several funnel templates and a drag-and-drop page builder that makes it easy to get just the look you want.
AWeber—Probably the easiest email manager on the market today, AWeber is the choice for many small business owners, not only because it’s simple to use, but because it’s also economical. Starting at less than $20 per month for up to 500 subscribers, AWeber offers both autoresponders and broadcast emails, list automation, and segmenting, so you can send emails exactly when—and to whom—you want.
AW Pro Tools—an add-on to AWeber, AW Pro Tools gives you added control over your list management by automatically removing unsubscribes, moving subscribers from one list to another based on the link they click, and other useful automations.
PayPal—The simplest of all payment processors, PayPal allows you to take payments online for a very reasonable fee. It will also act as a simple shopping cart.
Ontraport—Another email manager, Ontraport offers shopping cart functionality as well, so you can create powerful funnels that are fully integrated with your sales process. The benefit here is that you don’t have to try to synch your cart with your email system, since it’s completely self-contained.
Infusionsoft—Probably the top tool for any business model, Infusionsoft is an all-in-one solution for customer management, funnel setup, mailing list, and even membership sites. It’s priced at the high end, but if you can (and will) use all its power, then Infusionsoft is well worth the investment.
You can see that you have a lot of options when it comes to building out your sales funnels, but what are the must-have items? At the most basic level, you must have:
A way to create web pages. A simple website will fill this need, with a little bit of work. LeadPages or Instabuilder are nice to have, but not essential, especially if you’re just getting started.
A way to capture email addresses. AWeber is definitely the top choice here, but others include MailChimp, Constant Contact, ConvertKit and iContact.
A shopping cart. PayPal is as easy as it gets when it comes to shopping carts, but other options include 1 Shopping Cart, Woo Commerce, Infusionsoft, and aMember.
I recommend you start small. Build the funnel framework as simply as you can, using tools that don’t cost a fortune. Once you have a few funnels up and running, you will be able to see where they can use improvement, and how the tools available to you can help make your funnels convert better and work more efficiently.
What is your favorite tool for building your sales funnel? Coach Deb
Been on a webinar lately? I bet you have.
The fact is, webinars are one of today’s hottest marketing trends. Each and every week, you’ll find small business owners hosting webinars about book publishing, blogging, and even how to sell T-shirts online. No matter what your niche or industry, webinars are a great option for growing your market.
Perhaps the number one reason to host a webinar—especially if you partner with another business owner in a complementary niche—is to grow your list. Here’s why it works so well.
As a business owner with resources and information to share, you’re in demand, and there are plenty of others out there looking to partner with you. Find a colleague in a related niche to host your event. Ask her to mail her list with an offer to join you both on the call. Collect emails in your mailing list system. Any sales you make from the event will pay your partner an affiliate commission. That way you both win: You build your mailing list, and she earns cash for her time.
Show Off Your Expertise
You’ve no doubt heard plenty of people talking about the “know, like and trust factor.” It’s a simple reminder that very few people will buy from you the first time they encounter your website or get an email from you. They need more info.
A webinar is a fantastic way to build up their trust. Because they can hear your voice, and maybe even see your face, there’s an instant connection. Not only that, but you get to impress them with your knowledge of the topic. Your audience will walk away not only knowing you better, but also with the impression that you are the go-to person in your niche.
Sell to a Captive Audience
Here’s a fact you may not have considered: Webinar attendees are primed to buy. Make them an irresistible offer, and you’ll be amazed at how effective “selling from the stage” can be.
What’s irresistible? Try these proven tactics:
Both plans have worked for thousands of webinar presenters, and will work for you, too.
Whether you’ve never hosted a webinar before, or you’re already an old hand, there’s little doubt that this is a tool that really performs. The amount of time you spend preparing and promoting is minor compared to the potential returns, so get out there and start planning your next webinar event!
I'd like to hear what you think, comment below. Coach Deb
If the very thought of PowerPoint makes your eyes glaze over, you’re not alone. The world is filled with incredibly boring presentations, and you’ve no doubt sat through your share of them.
Now that you’re preparing your own presentations, how can you ensure your audience doesn’t feel the same way? By creating engaging, fun slides that grab and hold their attention.
Bullet Point Poison
While you may want to outline—and yes—use bullet points in your notes, the last thing that should appear on your slides are bullets. They’re the hallmark of an amateur presenter, and should only be used as a last resort.
More Slides, Not Fewer
It’s a common mistake many new (and even experienced) presenters make: too few slides. As a general rule of thumb, plan at least one slide per minute, on average. So a 45 minute presentation should have 45 slides, give or take a few.
Fewer Words, More Images
You’ll often see presentations—particularly in the corporate world—that contain nothing but words. Some presenters even read right from their slides. Talk about boring!
Instead, mix up your slides to include words, images, screenshots, graphs and other visually appealing elements. Use images that match your personality and style. For example, one of the highlights of watching any presentation by Nicole Dean is her liberal use of dog images. Not only do they help to solidify her message, but they keep the viewer entertained as well.
Don’t Forget Branding
Like all of your web properties, you want to be sure your slides are clearly branded. Your site colors, logo, tagline, URL and other elements help to remind viewers of who you are and what your business is. Consider creating a PowerPoint theme that you can use for all your presentations.
Clearly State Your Offer
The last few minutes of any presentation are typically reserved for your offer, so don’t skimp out here. Be sure your offer is clearly presented on your final slides, including the URL, any discount or bonuses, and the deadline for claiming them.
Finally, take the time to study the slides of the presenters you truly enjoy. Chances are if you are attentive to their presentation, others are as well. Follow their lead when it comes to number of slides, types of images, and how the offer is presented, and you’ll soon be wowing your audience, too.
Who are some of your favorite presenters? Comment below, Coach Deb
Selling anything online today requires plenty of “social proof.” Testimonials, “likes” and “shares,” re-tweets and re-grams are all ways of saying “I like this. It’s worthy of my time and money.”
For training programs, ebooks and other downloadable items, testimonials are the biggest and best tool in your toolbox. But when you’re running a live event such as a VIP day, you have other, more powerful options.
Take Lots of Photos
If your VIP day is live, remember to bring your camera along—or better yet, hire a professional photographer to document. There’s no better way to get future VIP clients excited about your offers than to show them photos of what to expect.
If you hold your event in a hotel or resort, photos of the surroundings can give it the feel of a relaxing retreat. If your event is virtual, grab some screenshots of your face-to-face video chat. This will help show that even if you don’t meet your clients in person, there is still a very real connection.
Use the photos later on your:
Just be sure you get the appropriate model release from all your attendees before publishing their photos publicly. Nothing puts a damper on your next event quite like a cease and desist order!
During your event—while everyone is feeling enthusiastic about their business and excited for what’s on the horizon—is the perfect time to grab some meaningful testimonials. Written testimonials are fine, but if you can capture them on video, you’ll be well ahead of the competition.
Simply set up a video camera on a tripod in a quiet corner of your venue, and ask attendees to take a few minutes out of their day to share their thoughts. You could even do this on the fly with a simple cell-phone video if you like.
Hashtags are Hot
Here’s another tip for getting the word out about your VIP days: create a hashtag. Every time you post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram about your event, use the hashtag. Encourage attendees to use it as well. You can create searches using your hashtag and post the results to your sales page, your blog, or anywhere else you talk about an upcoming VIP day.
If this sounds like a lot of work for one person to manage, well, it can be. But make no mistake, social proof is critical to your success, so unless your event is super confidential, the work will pay off. If necessary, consider hiring an assistant to take the stress out of photos, testimonials and social posting. That way all your attention can be right where it needs to be, on your clients.
I look forward to reading your comments below, Coach Deb
Some of us like to fly by the seat of our pants. We “go with the flow,” and relish the flexibility our online, self-employed status gives us. I get it.
But when you’re planning your VIP day, freeform flexibility is the kiss of death. Your VIP day has a goal, and in order to reach it, you have to stay on track. And that, of course, requires careful planning.
Make an Appointment Schedule
Every minute of your day should be planned out, from when and where you’ll be having breakfast, to the exact minute of departure. By leaving nothing to chance, you’ll eliminate the possibility of running overtime, and never have to worry about missing an important lesson or learning opportunity.
In addition, your attendees will know exactly what to expect as well, so they can be prepared ahead of time and make the most of your day together.
A page from any appointment calendar will work for mapping out your day. Begin with the non-negotiables:
Next, fill in other must-have times:
If your VIP day is actually two or three days, then you’ll also want to include time away from the main location.
This may seem like very little time is left for actual one on one time, but if you keep your VIP day focused on a single outcome, it’s more than enough to give all your attendees the attention they deserve.
Publish Your Schedule
Don’t forget to share your schedule with your VIPs. Having this document in hand before they arrive will help them prepare for the event. They’ll know ahead of time what questions they want to be sure to ask, what documents or other information they should bring with them, and even what to pack.
Not only that, but planning your VIP day well in advance leaves no room for rabbit trails and other unproductive time. You want to be sure your attendees get great value from their day with you, so keeping everyone on track is important, and will make you a superstar.
What tools do you use to organize your VIP days? Coach Deb
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