Mini Course Emails: 4 Reasons You Need to Ask for a Personal Reply Up Front

this is the stern of a boat, not an email

this is the stern of a boat, not an email

I’ve had an email mini course as my frontline lead generator for the past couple of years (Actually as I type this it occurs to me that it might be time to freshen it up). If you’ve never heard of an email mini course it could be that you live under a rock or it could be that you’re not doing any online marketing but these are the only two reasons I can think of.

I recently changed the first email that goes out in my email mini course and I’m going to share the results with you because it’s been huge.

1. Deliverability

Email deliverability and open rates have been eroding. Which is actually part of the reason I send a series of emails via the email mini course right out of the gate; because it gets people used to opening and clicking on my emails and email providers like to see that.

When the recent Gmail inbox changes came out I started looking into how to get mini course emails out of the “promotions” tab and into the “primary” tab. In addition to this I’d reeeally like to remove the “via (my email service)” that’s next to my name.

Google makes 3 technical and/or strategic recommendations on how to get your mini course emails to the inbox.

  1. Configure your DKIM correctly (out of luck on that front, I use infusionsoft – for now)
  2. Create your SPF correctly – done.
  3. Get people to REPLY to you… ya know, like people would if it was a …er… regular email – which of course it is.

You might look at this and say that Gmail doesn’t have enough marketshare to pay this much attention to what they say but the fact is if it works for Google It’s going to work for other providers.

2. Oh My Goodness the Learning

There’s another problem with the way I’ve been doing things, namely, if all the communication flow is coming from me, it’s not really a conversation is it?

I shudder to think of what I’ve missed and how much further along I’d be had I done this sooner. Over just the last 2 weeks I have heard from more than 100 people who are telling me exactly what they’re looking for out of my mini-course and why they signed up which is really just an extension of my product, or a mini-snapshot of it anyway.

How much better will my sales copy be? How much more in tune with the audience will I be after collecting all of this language from all of these willing and eager participants?

You can send out surveys and do a lot of different things to get this information but what’s happening here is that in their own words my subscribers are telling me about the struggles they’re having, why they signed up in the first place, and what they hope to be able to accomplish with the information in the course.

Look at this inbox.

email mini course personal replies
Dozens of personal replies from potential customers telling me exactly what they want.

Probably the most valuable thing that I’ve learned from all these reply emails so far is that there is a much bigger segment of my audience seeking information on one particular topic, a topic that I have been treating as an after thought or sideline in my business. So that’s going to stop…. like now.

How much have your customers told you about what they want in their own words?

3. Build Trust

More than half the emails that I’m getting are people thanking me for having the information available.

Is there a better early relationship to have a with a customer than to have them thanking you for sending email marketing to them? If you’re sending junk don’t expect this kind of response but if  you’re putting out coherent, well thought out emails that are answering the questions that they have then you will.

4. Um… More Sales!

If people regularly open your emails and read them, if they trust what you have to say, if they like the information you provide and the way you provide it and therefore they like you AND you’re providing a good paid product then what else is there but an increase in sales?

My New Mini-Course – First Email – and How to Write Yours

I know you know how to write an email but I wanted to share my though process with you about this one. I think there are a few key reasons it’s working so well. I haven’t yet calculated the response rate but it is extremely high.

email mini course first email
My first email in the email mini course

Go Forth and Sell Educate One Email at a Time

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that 62% of my sales come from-or-during the email mini course so if you’re wondering if you should put something like that together for your product, stop wondering.

How to DOUBLE Your Facebook Retargeting Results

use women in your retargeting ads

use women in your retargeting ads

I’ve been using retargeting to drive conversions on my primary website since late spring (2013) and its the best most effective paid marketing I’ve done – period.

There are a lot of different things I could talk about; like how you should segment visitors, for example segment people who have already opted-in to your email list  to show them a different offer; we could talk about how a free course or other giveaway offer beats a discount or a “come look at my sales/pricing/features page” – hands down – but I’m going more base than that today.

For 3 months I tested both AdRoll and PerfectAudience and in the end I opted to dump AdRoll and use only PerfectAudience but that is for another blog post.

So I know you want to get right into how you’re going to double your retargeting results but first let’s look at what that means and how you’d measure.

Retargeting Stats You Should Care About

Retargeting services want to prove their value to you so they show you a lot of stats. Some of the stats (in my opinion) are just pure bullshit. The “View Through Conversion” for example is meaningless. If I send an email to someone on my list and then they buy but on that same day they saw an ad of mine on the web then the conversion belongs to the email and nothing else.

So here’s what you should care about in your retargeting campaigns.

  • Clicks – How many people click on your ad
  • CTR – Click Through Rate
  • CPC – Cost Per Click
  • CTC – How many clicks resulted in a conversion
  • CTC% – What is the click to conversion percentage

The other retargeting rates and ratios are for the purpose of convincing you to keep advertising as far as I’m concerned. I’m ready to be wrong but that’s where I stand.

So before I reveal this super-secret top performing formula that’s going to rocket your site to stardom (oh man is that awful I’m selling so hard you can taste it, right?) I need to apprise you of a couple of caveats.

  1. I’ve only tested this with Facebook retargeting so far and not with any other web retargeting.
  2. Your best results are going to be when you’re retargeting in the Facebook feed, not on the sidebar.
  3. If you’re going to test this yourself make sure you use the exact same copy for each of your ads and only change the image or your results won’t be valid.

I hinted at what works with the image in the post, but OK here it is, without further ado…. sex…. its SEX, there I said it. You happy?

FaceBook Retargeting Results

Original

I like to think that this ad is pretty well though out.

  • The colors and graphic on this ad match the landing page perfectly.
  • There’s a button to encourage the right kind of action
  • The fact that the course is free is emphasized
  • There’s a graphical depiction of the actual thing you’ll get when you click
  • It’s branded like a site the visitor has already been to (it is retargeting after all)
Losing facebook retargeting ad
The colors, graphics, and offer are all designed to match the landing page perfectly. Still, bupkis.

Winning Treatment (Or Test)

This ad plays to pure human nature. It’s lizard brain or bust (pardon the pun) for this.

  • There’s a hot girl with a low-cut blouse looking towards the words
facebook retargeting ad
This image more than doubled the effectiveness of this facebook wall retargeting campaign.

Here’s how the numbers bear out.

  • Metric     Original     Treatment
  • CTR        0.678%      1.132%
  • CPC        $1.10         $0.65
  • CTC%     0%              38%

Coincidentally, or maybe not, that 38% conversion is exactly the conversion I’m seeing on the landing page from other sources.

About This Test

I ran this test on both retargeting services named above. I first ran it on AdRoll and later was allowed beta access to PerfectAudience. I had actually shut down the original ad on AdRoll after some obvious results and then re-started the same test on PerfectAudience. I’m using the PerfectAudience numbers. I’m not sharing my spend or number of clicks. I am maxing out the available spend for a website with unique visitors in the low 5 figures.

You could argue that real estate is male dominated but I’ll tell you that my Rapleaf analysis of my list says “not so much”

Business cleavage” out performs the graphic that I had made to perfectly match the landing page. So there you have it, the ladies, pictures of good looking women in low-cut but non-offensive frock…. “business cleavage” will double the effectiveness of your ad.

I know what you’re thinking… alright I don’t… but it could be a variety of things, you could be thinking:

  • Well, yeah this is obvious…
  • That’s offensive! I don’t care if it sells
  • My audience doesn’t respond to this kind of thing
  • I don’t know if I want my product/service to be associated with ads like that
  • Where can I get some cleavage pics?

Here’s what I have to say about it. If we’re in the business of selling something and we’re really interested in maximizing then we’re going to occasionally find a line that we may or may not want to cross. GoDaddy is an example of company that’s crossed some lines in this department and has its share of haters.

I have a mother, a wife, and a daughter.

I don’t plan to put up g-string pictures or just wildly objectifying content but I also don’t plan on leaving much on the table if I don’t have to and I do plan to continue to use strategies and tactics that are proven to work – and if people want to click on chicks by gosh I’ll give’em chicks to click…

By the way the links to the services in this article (AdRoll, PerfectAudience) are affiliate links and I might make some money if you use one to sign up.

Update: 9/8

In response to the a couple of hypotheses challenging the test results I’ve launched the following Facebook wall retargeting campaigns and I’ll update this post with results. Since the physical attractiveness of a person is more than a little subjective I tried to choose a man of similar age and style who is also looking towards the words with a computer in front of him.

Here are the new treatments.

Facebook wall retargeting campaign
Simple ebook cover which represents the contents of the free course that’s being offered

and the additional the male head shot

facebook wall retargeting ad with a man looking towards the words
Attractive man looking in the same direction as the woman above both with a computer between themselves and the words

I’ll look forward to posting results in the next few weeks.

Update: 9/13

I’m pulling the plug on these additional tests. As much as I’d like to continue to experiment with this the early numbers are in and they strongly support my original findings to go any further would increase the cost of clicks and diminish my CTR.

The ebook cover alone performed the worst. It got no clicks.

The picture of the smiling dude did not fair as well as the professionally designed graphic. The CTR on that was .509 or only about 40% as effective as the young lady.

So there you have it.

I’m excited about retargeting an the results that are available generally and I’ll be writing more about my Facebook wall retargeting and other retargeting campaigns as I test.

How to Claim Your Content with Google+ Rel=Author

AuthorshipI was listening to a podcast today while I was touring New England checking out some upcoming auction properties and I heard about the the way Google is proposing we use authorship markup.

My understanding of what authorship markup is supposed to do today is give you credit for your web content and show your connections your profile photo in their search results next to your content.

If there aren’t already 100 other authorship algorithms at Google around the use of the authorship markup let’s go ahead and bet that there will be. It would seem like an obvious conclusion to say that it will:

  • Give focused content from prolific/credible authors more ‘authority
  • Promote results in search from people you’re connected with
  • What else? Tell me in the comments.

If you’re marketing anything at all (aren’t we all to one degree or another? Shouldn’t we be?) you should be producing good original content on the web. If you are producing good quality content it’s a no-brainer that you would do what the Big G tells you to do to get it found, right? So here’s the markup and how to use it. It’s pretty basic.

How to Claim Content Authorship ‘rel=author’ and Google

  1. Add the rel=”author” tag to a link that goes to your google profile
  2. If you don’t have control over the CMS and rel’s get scrubbed or whatever then you can append ?rel=author
  3. If you have a multi-author blog have each author’s bio link to their own google profile page with a rel=’me’
  4. Link from your Google Profile page to the site(s) where you publish

If you can automate the process by adding a link from an author bio template do that. If you have a single author site (as I do) you can add your link to the footer or somewhere else that makes sense, maybe put it by your social media icons. I added my rel=’author’ to my Author Box (you can see below). But wordpress scrubs rels in the profile (I found) so I appended the ?re=author to the end of the URL.

My next step is to figure out how to add a rel=author link to my photo. In the theme I’m using presently it’s a bit unwieldy. The idea is that eventually your photo will show up next to your content in the search results and that could mean more click-throughs.

WordPress Doesn’t Look Professional Enough

This is what my friend, whom I mentioned in an earlier post, recently told me as I’m coaching him through getting his site setup web strategy together. Here’s what he said about my suggestion that he use WordPress.

For the cost I agree it’s a good method for creating a website –
I think because of what I’m selling it doesn’t work though. They
all have a blog look to them. I’d shell out some money for a
custom website if I had to. I’ll send you some links for what
I’m talking about…

So I wrote that then went looking, and it seems most people
doing video work at my level are using wordpress. Hmmm.

I’d assign the money for a site like this one: { obscured}
This happens to be a guy in RI who does voice
over work, I know he paid something like $500-$1,000 for this site. I think if your in the business of presentation, like video work, your site should pop out. WordPress looks professional, but doesn’t seem to have stand out from the crowd capabilities.

My response:

That site is lame. The only way that it is getting any traffic at all is through traditional advertising or PPC. There is absolutely zero searchability, seriously it has NO search value. There is no text, no regular updates. His is a pretty billboard in the Appalachians it is practically worthless. Take his site to alexa.com or compete.com, he doesn’t even exist.

Just in case you don’t believe me or beg to differ I took it to the street. I’m a huge fan (though not presently a user) of Hubspot, their philosophy and technology. Their Website Grader is very cool. It analyzes sites for web marketing effectiveness, grades go from 0-100. Here’s what WebsiteGrader had to say about the site:

A website grade of 4/100 for [obscured].com means that means that of the millions of websites that have previously been evaluated, our algorithm has calculated that this site scores higher than 4% of them in terms of its marketing effectiveness. The algorithm uses a proprietary blend of over 50 different variables, including search engine data , website structure, approximate traffic, site performance, and others.

So what about a WordPress site used as a CMS? The frontend of distressedpro.com runs on wordpress (BankProspector does not) and with ZERO advertising, using exclusively content marketing and social media we’ve grown to over 100 members since December 20th, 2009 (that’s a month and a half). The site has only been live since late September. I think the number of users (and the caliber, though I’m not going to get into that right now) speaks for itself but what does WebsiteGrader have to say about my WordPress presentation?

The website www.distressedpro.com ranks 283,052 of the 2,050,623 websites that have been ranked so far.

A website grade of 86/100 for www.distressedpro.com means that means that of the millions of websites that have previously been evaluated, our algorithm has calculated that this site scores higher than 86% of them in terms of its marketing effectiveness. The algorithm uses a proprietary blend of over 50 different variables, including search engine data , website structure, approximate traffic, site performance, and others.

A. Traffic Rank : Top 3.438 %

Alexa is an online service that measures traffic for millions of sites on the Internet in a similar way to Nielsen television show ratings.
Your website has an Alexa rank of 1,069,222 which is in the top 3.438 % of all websites.

Can you make WordPress look professional? I don’t know it but its good enough for The NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox, Yahoo, Harvard, CNET, and the list just goes on.

There are a number of Content Management Systems that you could use. But you need to be able to regularly update your site with posts. The only way that guy is getting any traffic is by traditional advertising or PPC. If you build custom you will be rebuilding every 24 months. WP can look like almost anything you want. Other CMS’s that you can checkout that I can help you with (this is an open letter to my friend remember) are Expression Engine, Joomla, Drupal, and Squarespace.

If you are thinking about your website as a placard you are thinking about it incorrectly. You need to think about it as your broadcast station from which you disseminate information. Information through which potential customers find you, visit your site and engage. A CMS will help you to do that and you’d be hard pressed to find one that is as flexible and affordable as WordPress.

Professional’s Online Marketing Starter Kit

Over the last few weeks I’ve had a few professionals (friends) talk to me about how they’re marketing themselves on the web. What I aim to do here is layout a plan for those that have asked. The goal is to help get them from zero to having a professional online presence and online lead flow.

I’m not an internet guru I’m just a guy who has been driving a lot of leads and business online and I’m going to share what I’ve learned.

Step 1: Google yourself.

What do you find? Something? Nothing? Worse..? If you’re doing business today you’re getting Googled. If you have a particularly common name then there will be a lot of results that have nothing to do with you. But think about what you would do if you were  looking into doing business with somebody. First you’d probably google their name. If you got no results you would google their name and company name. Next you might try their job title or job description. Think about it.

If I was looking at working with an “investment broker” named “John Smith” from “Fidelity” in “Boston” I’d search these terms.

You are getting googled, if you’re doing business, period. There aren’t a lot of people with my name so it was fairly easy for me to get control of it online. Regardless of how common your name is you can make some advances.

Step 2: Register your name as a domain name.

Even if you decide that you’re going to use other domain names and sites for business, start here. It is entirely likely that if you have a common name your name is registered. In that case consider some alternatives, use your middle initial, use a designation or a keyword at the end of your name, use a hyphen john-smith.com, johnCsmith.com, john-c-smith.comjohn-smith-cfp.com (Certified Financial Planner)  – go get your name right now.

  1. Register.com is the quickest domain name check that I’m aware of. I’ve never purchased a domain from them but I always check availability there first.  Once you find a domain that works you need to register it. This should cost you between 6 and $15 dollars per year depending on where you go. You should buy a number of years up front (more on why later).
  2. Choose a registrar and a hosting company. I like Bluehost.com for several reasons.
    • Tech support is awesome, they speak English as a first language and so do I, you can IM with them in an instant they are always there, I have never had a problem go unsolved for very long.
    • They use “Simple Scripts” simple scripts frees you from having to know anything to get your website setup (in the next steps that I’m going to walk you through). With Simple Scripts you can literally go live with just a few clicks. Simple Scripts automatically launches a variety of Open Source platforms that are FREE. I will talk more about Open Source for business later.
    • I’ve tried a number of hosts and some SUCK. Take 1and1.com for example. I hate (yes I know that is a strong word) this host. They are cheap but their support is clueless and sites there are slllllloooooowwwww. I also use MediaTemple for distressedpro.com because I needed my own server, and finally I’ve heard good things about HostGator though I’ve never used them, a few of my techies like them (I think because they’re cheap).
  3. Go ahead and register your name as a domain, and if you have one, a company name.
  4. Alternate domain names: If you don’t have a company, you’re independent and a sole proprietor etc, or maybe you want to do this anyway – register a keyword rich name – boston-investment-advisor.com, rhode-island-video.com, somerville-real-estate-attorney.com. But if you go too long it will be hard to use in print in a lot of places. I have a number of domains for different purposes.

Note: rhode-island-video.com is better for your search marketing efforts than rhodeislandvideo.com, even though it doesn’t look as good.

Step 3: Start assembling your assets.

You are probably going to have to wait, at a minimum, a few hours maybe a day for your domain name to be pointing anywhere. While you have this time and you’re all anxious about getting your website setup go ahead and start compiling your assets. By assets I mean all of the content that you’ve been hiding away from the world. Like what? Anything that you have done in your profession that you have not published and that is good enough for the world to see.

Compile things like:

  1. Videos
  2. Photographs
  3. Papers or article you’ve written
  4. Case studies you’ve compiled
  5. Data or analysis you’ve done on a subject
  6. Spreadsheets
  7. Opinions

Whatever, get it all together. It doesn’t have to be ready to go live. Make a folder for ‘Assets’, make some sub-folders that pertain to your categories and dig deep, pull it all together and get it organized.

What if I have no assets?

First off I don’t believe you, look harder, but lets say you don’t – jump to step 4.

Step 4: Start thinking about who your customer or client is. Write it down.

  1. Write down and describe your perfect client or clients. This isn’t new stuff I’m not making it up I’m just reminding you. “But I just want to make my website”  – well you’re going to need to know who you’re talking to. There’s no sense running in half-cocked. Go ahead and describe who your client is and who you want to work with, demographically, physically, whatever. Lay it all out there so you know who this website is talking to.

This is enough for a couple of days work. Probably you won’t want to spend too much time describing your customer or client and you’ll just just start futzing around with your site DON”T do it. You’ll be wasting your time now and in the future while you’re correcting your errors. Once you start thinking about who you’re talking to your approach will change.

This really is enough, so go ahead and get into who you’re going to do business with so you can start your site out right.