One of the toughest things for me to do is to say no to a one-on-one consultation or coaching request. Multiple requests come in every single day.
I don’t share this to brag, but instead to share that I wish I could say yes to every one because I legitimately want to help.
I’ve done one-on-ones before and it’s one of my favorite things to do. I get such a rush after the calls are over because I can feel the energy and the momentum that person has gained. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming an entrepreneur, it is this:
When you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else—and vice versa.
To be more specific, if I were to say yes to coaching calls, I’d be saying no to other things I could be focusing on, such as other business endeavors or even my family.
There’s a finite number of hours during the day to get things done, so we should be very picky with where we invest that time. In terms of helping people, I believe I can help the most by publishing content on my blog, podcast, and on SPI TV while also being open, authentic, and honest with people along the way.
In my eyes, instead of a one-to-one, it’s like a one-to-many.
With that said, I know it helps when content becomes more specific and personalized to one’s own business. Universal principles and strategies are great, but when directly addressing one’s particular situation it’s much easier to grasp ideas and make specific plans moving forward.
In my never ending quest to serve you (the SPI audience) I’m going to be publishing a few new content pieces here on SPI and gauge the reaction. The purpose is to try to give you more relatable content by publicly featuring members of the SPI community and my personalized advice for them.
So, it’s like a one-to-one, but public so that others can learn from it, too.
In an upcoming episode of the SPI Podcast (#191), I speak with Robert Kibbe, an online business owner and member of the SPI Community. However, this wasn’t a traditional interview…
It was a consultation call that you get to listen in on.
I’ve been gathering feedback about the episode and so far people seem to be getting a ton of value from that episode format. In 2016, you’ll see more of those types of episodes.
Additionally, I’m experimenting in this particular written article by featuring multiple members of the SPI community who are growing their online business but are stuck, followed by my advice and thoughts for them moving forward.
The tough part is we lose the back-and-forth here, but I’m hoping that the public nature of this post will get the entire community involved, and I’ll essentially be the conversation starter. A lot of the breakthroughs and good advice can come from others in the audience in the comment section below, too.
A few weeks back, I asked my Facebook page to respond to the following prompt:
I’m looking for SPI readers/listeners who have an online business who feel stuck and are willing to have their website and business be featured on an upcoming blog post where I will share your website, why you feel stuck, followed by what I would do & my advice for getting unstuck.
More than 135 people replied, and I’ve hand-selected three based on the highest number of liked comments and ones I thought would be the most relatable to the whole audience.
Like I said earlier, I wish I could get to everyone, but I’m hoping these SPI Community content pieces do more than just help out those who are featured.
In this particular post, I featured three SPI readers who need some help with conversions and optimization. They are, however, quite different from each other, so I hope I’m able to help you—the reader—in at least one of these examples.
Your feedback is always welcome…
1. Cara from HealthHomeandHappiness.com
I had a baby 1 and a 1/2 years ago and I feel like I’ve let the whole thing kind of slip. I feel 2 years behind on everything, and while I’m still making a decent income from my blog, I know it could be more if I started optimizing. But I’m struggling to know where to focus my efforts.
“Optimize” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. It has meaning—when we want to take something we already have and make it better—but at the same time, no action can be taken until we define what we’re trying to improve.
In Cara’s case (congrats on the baby!), it’s clear that more can be done, but until we define what that is, it’ll always continue to be a struggle. And this dance of “I know I should be doing more…but of what exactly?” can leave us dizzy and unfocused.
Sometimes we don’t know what to do, or we have too many things to do that we get nothing done instead. It’s all about focusing on one thing at a time, so it’s important to really hone in on what will help us move the needle in our business the most.
Here are a few discussion points and exercises that I’ve previously prescribed to people to help them through prioritization…
Point #1: First Optimize What’s Already Working
Find out what’s working in your business, and do that better first.
Yes, it’s not as fun and glamorous as trying something new and seeing how that might skyrocket your business, but when you’ve already started a fire with what you have, why not add more fuel to it before trying to rub two sticks together somewhere else?
How do you know what’s working? Well, there are a number of ways to figure this out:
- Use any analytics tools that you have set up, from traffic analysis tools to help you figure out which posts and content are generating the most traffic, to stats within your shopping cart (or other points of monetization) to see which 20% of your products or referring pages are giving you 80% of the results.
- Split testing, using tools like Optimizely to hone in on higher converting variations of items that already exist in your brand.
- Having real conversations with your audience, and just asking. There’s nothing that has been more valuable to the growth and direction of my blog than actual conversions with people in my audience about what’s working, and what’s not. Try getting on the phone or on Skype with someone in your audience, and you’ll find out some information that could really help you focus—especially when you hear it in their own voice.
Beyond that, I think it’s important to look at optimization and improvement in a “process of elimination” method. Here’s an exercise I’ve passed along to a few people I’ve spoken to on Skype that has been very useful:
Step 1: Let’s Brainstorm
Write down and fill in the blanks in the sentence below.
I want to improve _____________, so that I can ______________.
Repeat this as many times as you can with anything that comes to mind. There are no wrong answers. You may end up with five or 50 of these—or more! Keep going until you run out of ideas, and don’t worry about the order for now.
I want to improve the consistency in my blog publishing, so that I can plan better and my audience will know when to expect my content.
I want to improve my bounce rate, so that I can keep traffic on my site longer, improve SEO and get more email subscribers.
Even if we were to stop here, a lot of great information can come from this first step of this exercise. You’ll see, on paper, what’s been going through your brain, and almost immediately you’ll begin to see what your next starting points might be. One or two of these may jump out at you already, but let’s move to Step 2 to define these even more…
Step 2: Let’s Essentialize
For each of the improvement points you listed in Step 1, give it a score between 0 and 10.
- 0 = Not important at all. Will not move the needle at all.
- 10 = This is extremely important and will give me the most bang for my buck!
As you score, keep in mind what’s going to give you the greatest return, not just monetarily, but also in terms of helping you best serve your audience.
Step 3: Let’s Prioritize
For all improvement points that received a score between 0 and 3, completely forget about them—you have more important things to do right now.
For all improvement points that received a score between 4 and 7, keep them around, but know that they aren’t your top priority.
For all improvement points that received a score between 8 and 10, this is where you’re going to start.
You’ll likely have more than one improvement point within this top category. If possible, rank them in terms of importance, and you’ll begin to see a checklist of items you can focus on, and which one you should start with.
Step 4: Let’s Implement
Select the top item from your list, and then every piece of content you consume, and every question you ask should be related to that one focus. Every action you take and thought in your head (while in work mode) is about completing that task and making that improvement.
2. Ron from OneHourProfessor.com
Though the traffic is decent (6,000/month) and there is some revenue rolling in passively, I want to get MORE passive income. I get some consulting as a result of the website, but getting people to purchase anything affiliate related seems nearly impossible. I’m working on a course now to have a flagship product, but ways to make affiliate income would be helpful. Not interested in running adsense, mostly just want to get more affiliate sales on products that I KNOW are amazing.
Also should note per our earlier discussion, www.JobsForFelonsHub.com is also mine and I’m up for a critique there as well. Currently making $100/month, but would like to hear ideas on making more, especially considering the target market and their lack of disposable income.
Oh, and thanks Pat!
Increasing income doesn’t always have to come with increasing traffic, but instead looking at the conversion side of things. Like with Cara, I’d look at what’s already working and optimize that first.
So for example, if you get consulting as a result of the website, is there any way that the consulting gig can be productized? It seems like you’re working on something like this already, which is great, but let’s keep rolling with this idea…
In other words, are you able to take the skill you already provide and allow it to run systematically, growing with or without your direct involvement? As Brian Casel shares in SPI Podcast Session #158:
“Productizing your service can free you from the classic freelance model, where you bill by the hour. When you productize, you’re no longer limited by the number of hours you can feasibly work.”
As a result, this consulting income can actually become more passive! I’d recommend listening to that podcast episode. You know that’s already working for you when you’re involved, so see if there’s a way to make it work more efficiently for you.
Beyond that, I’d like to argue Ron’s statement: “getting people to purchase anything affiliate related seems nearly impossible.”
The fact that he says “nearly impossible” likely means that it’s totally possible, he just hasn’t found the right way to do it yet. In the world of affiliate marketing, that simply means the offers have not been exciting or enticing enough to his audience.
There are a few ways to make it more exciting and that’s where I’d start:
- Discover through direct conversations with your audience (which he’s already doing through consulting calls) what kinds of products would be necessary for them to have in order to reach their goals.
- For those specific products, create demo videos and walkthroughs of what they look like and how they are used. Whenever I’ve done this in the past, like with my Bluehost video, and my ConvertKit demo video, people become more likely to purchase if it’s something they need because people like to see the product in action before they buy it. You can’t just throw up a link and expect that to work. Do some work to really showcase those products as if they were your own.
There’s a lot Ron can do—the flagship product, the affiliate marketing and even his other projects—but from my point of view the one thing he should be focusing on is the flagship product because it’s going to enhance what is already working on the site.
Once that’s up and running, fully optimized in terms of conversions into it and experience within it for his customers, then and only then, would I begin to think about the affiliate stuff.
And the other niche site is cool, but that market is going to be much more difficult to see results from, so I’d put that aside for later, or hire someone else to manage it and share a cut of the new profits with them so that focus can be where it needs to be.
3. Leyla from ChaiandConversation.com
I studied architecture as well, and work full-time as an architectural designer. I have this podcast that teaches the Persian language. The podcast is free but I sell supplemental bonus materials on the side. Although I have 26,000 unique visitors to the site and over $1,000 in sales per month, I just don’t know how to take it to the next level. I feel like it could be much more, but just don’t know how to take it there.
What I need help with: Specifically, I want to know the next step in increasing my conversion rates. Also, I want people to immediately know the value of purchasing the ‘bonus materials’ as opposed to just listening to the podcasts. We have a very committed and supportive community, just don’t know how to turn it into revenue.
I hope you can help!! (also, saw you at podcast movement, it was such a good motivator!)
Increasing conversion rates and having an audience understand the value of a purchase go hand-in-hand. Additionally, there are several conversion points that need to be examined in the sales funnel, because each of them can either work in your favor to lead to a sale, or become a decision point where one decides to walk away.
The niche is great and I definitely feel like there’s a lot more to be earned here, but let’s start by examining the funnels and the conversion points along the way:
Conversion point #1: Most of the audience is likely listening to the podcast, and most of the discovery is going to be through this channel, too. A big factor is going to be how well Leyla converts listeners into website traffic.
I listened to Lesson 1: How to Greet People and Ask How They’re Doing, and it’s very well done! High quality, very educational, and it’s no wonder it’s seeing some success. There are a lot of positive and supportive comments on the page too, which is great to see.
I was looking for a call-to-action back to the website in the episode, and I heard it at the end of the show:
“Like we mentioned before, the podcast is only one part of our learning system. We also have a lot of extra learning materials that you can download off of our website, http://www.chaiandconversation.com. These include pdf guides that go along with each lesson, that will help you reinforce what you’ve been learning on the podcast. These pdf guides spell out the words we have learned phonetically in English so that you can get a better grasp of how to pronounce them.”
This CTA is okay, but it could be better. There is a lot of value in sharing that there’s more learning material on the website, but although these are free, they still need to be “sold” on the podcast to be able to convince people enough to come to the site and download them.
One way to discover what to say is to think about some of your audience’s biggest fears. So, what’s one thing people who are learning a language don’t want to happen?
They don’t want to forget what they learned! So, let’s add that into the copy to really hone in on the CTA…
“To make sure you don’t forget what you learned today, visit ChaiandConversation.com/1 to download the Lesson 1 Vocabulary Sheet, which lays out everything we talked about in this episode. It’s completely free and helps you memorize these words and phrases, and we also have a quiz for you there, too, to test what you’ve already learned. To get this for free, head on over to ChaiandConversation.com/1 right now.”
A few things here:
- I’ve included an easy URL that leads directly to the lesson page, instead of the homepage. If the website is a WordPress site, this is easily done with a free plugin called Pretty Link, which will redirect people to the lesson page through any custom URL you want. The reason this is important is because if you were drive people to the homepage, you give them an extra step to find the lessons and related goodies, which becomes another opportunity for people to get overwhelmed, lose direction, and leave. Plus, this trains your audience to make it easy for them to get back to the website while listening to future episodes.
- Notice how I didn’t call the additional material a PDF, or mention anything related to “extra” or “bonus.” The file format doesn’t matter, and saying “bonus” makes it seem like it’s not really necessary, and if it’s not necessary it’s not going to be urgently downloaded. It’s already implied that it’s extra material so you don’t need to say that, but you do need to sell that this is necessary, which you can do if you share that it’ll help one memorize the material better.
- I’d recommend putting this kind of copy into the podcasts both at the top and bottom of each episode. It’s helpful, and there should be no shame in doing this!
Conversion point #2: What’s the #1 thing you want people to do when they visit your site? Most people answer this question by saying, “buy my product” or “visit my store,” but that’s like asking for marriage on a first date. It’s going to take some time, so there are some things that should happen in between to build that relationship up first.
Ideally, you’ll want people to subscribe to your email list. This small transaction (an email address in exchange for a subscription or lead magnet) can be the start of many more transactions down the road. Plus, when you have a person’s email address, you can better serve them through more valuable content and a more streamlined direction through your sales funnel.
Currently, the only thing driving people into the email list is a small little area in the sidebar that has no incentive whatsoever:
So here’s the solution, and Leyla’s already halfway there:
The easiest thing that comes to mind is to have people subscribe to get access to the bonus materials. This “content upgrade” is actually one of the top ways people are building their email lists right now. Brian Dean from Backlinko, Clay Collins from LeadPages, Bryan Harris and myself all have tested this out, and it works, and have shared how much it has increased our subscribership.
And the cool thing is that Leyla already has these content upgrades in place, an opt-in form just needs to be put in place within each lesson post on the website.
From there, they can be placed into a series of emails that provide value, build a relationship but also automatically sell the products she has to offer. Additionally, another benefit and value-add to the audience is that they will get email updates when new lessons come out. This automates the learning process and the selling process.
Another idea for the email list: Leyla could also promote a specific email list people can sign up for that automatically sends them emails each week with the next course. Perhaps it’s a Ten Lesson Course delivered via an autoresponder, and she could simply link people to each episode within those emails, and even include the upgrades right there in those emails already because they’re already on the list.
Then, she’s have a clear indication of the number of people who are at each stage in the process, and could easily include a call to action to purchase a product within that series of emails, or at the end of it.
Conversion point #3: The Pitch.
With this new strategy, the focus on the website now becomes getting people to subscribe to the email list, and within the email list it the primary goal is getting people to click on an offer. I recommend listening to Session #143 and Session #159 of the podcast, which talk specifically about how to use an autoresponder to sell product.
Currently, the main offering is this:
The biggest challenge here is to differentiate what people get for free on the podcast, and what they get in the a paid product, and currently it’s not exactly clear what that difference is, or even what people are getting.
First, the features could be listed out so potential customers who land on this page know what they’re going to get. Beyond that, however, it’s the benefit of downloading this program that will make or break the sale. What problem are we solving here? What’s available here that is not available for free on the podcast?
Lastly, I like the idea of bundling the units together into one downloadable for a cheaper price, and although it’s mentioned in bold briefly in the existing copy, it could definitely be made more clear.
On GreenExamAcademy.com, one of my niche websites where I sold study guides and practice exams for the LEED exam, my best selling item of all time was a bundle of my eBook and audio guide together, which sold at a discounted bundle price.
Calling the main product Volume 1, and the products within them Units makes sense on paper, but when selling it’s a bit confusing because the value in the bundle isn’t all that clear.
Some design and copywriting needs to be optimized on the store page, and within the specific units there is no copy at all, which should be added. Addressing these as more than just bonus materials (which imply free), but rather as necessary items to enhance their learning and memorization experience, will go a very long way.
Conversion point #4: The checkout process, which actually comprises of multiple conversion (or decision) points.
- If I’m interested in a product, I first have to land on the page and be convinced to click “add to cart.”
- From there, I’m taken to my shopping cart, and then asked to checkout. I envision most people buying one product at a time here, so instead of an “add to cart” call to action, it’s perhaps a “buy now,” which allows you to skip this step of confirming the cart items before checking out.
- After clicking checkout, I’m then prompted to include my email address, and a coupon code if there is one available. Then click to continue onto the next step.
- Then I’m prompted to pay via PayPal, which does include other credit card payment options, but I have to click to then confirm this.
- Then, I’m redirected to paypal, at which point I have to login to pay via PayPal, or click a not-so-obvious dropdown menu to pay with a credit card on PayPal’s website.
That’s five steps and I haven’t even entered my credit card information yet. That’s a lot of potential drop off points!
This could be cut in half with a better shopping and checkout experience. A tool like Gumroad, for example, is perfect for this kind of product:
With Gumroad.com, for example:
- A button is clicked to make a purchase, and a pop-up appears.
- A preview of the product is shown, along with pricing and other compelling copy you include, and a “yes I want this” button.
- After clicking on that button, the buyer is prompted for their payment information, and after hitting submit, it’s done!
The nice thing about Gumroad is that it keeps the user on your website, there is less to click and fill out, and it’s a super-smooth checkout process. There are other merchants that perform similar functions, but I can’t help but recommend Gumroad.com because they are awesome and the product just works!
As a Reminder…
I’d love for this post to become a conversation starter. I’ve provided a number of points based on my own experience, but many of you are doing these exact things, have done them already, or have gone in completely different directions, and I (and the rest of the community) would love to hear from you!
So leave a comment below, and I look forward to hearing how you take my starting points to the next level!
Also, if you enjoyed this type of post, please let me know. This is experimental, and I’d love to see whether or not this is useful for more than just the three people highlighted here in this post. Thanks again!