Three Steps to Profitable Online Sales Funnels

In the world of internet marketing, there is always an opportunity to step back and see exactly what’s happening with your business. When you started this venture, you most likely had the idea of making money in mind. Without the appropriate tools and methods, achieving this status of profitability can be a difficult endeavor.

#1 Traffic. Your sales funnel normally begins at the moment when a prospect chooses to opt-in when they reach your capture location. This is your sign-up page or box where the person viewing the website decides to input their personal information to be added to your list. Without this critical point among your web pages, you have no opportunity to build either a list of potential customers, or develop the sales funnel. Viewers of your website will just visit and then turn to someone else’s page for what they are searching for.

The desired result is for people to visit your site and stay long enough to leave their contact information. This results in them agreeing to receive further communication from you via email autoresponders. Whether your preference is pay-per-click, e-zine articles or any other lead attraction techniques, once a prospect gives you permission to contact them, your sales funnel has begun.

However, in order for you to achieve this goal you need to master attracting people to your website. Any internet marketer must learn this critical skill from the beginning of their online venture. Generating traffic to your capture page is vital to the success of your business.

#2 Consistent Communication. Keeping your prospects interested and confident in what you have to offer is the next task on your sales funnel agenda. If your correspondence through email autoresponders is lacking substance, your chances of losing them as future customers are high. Your goal from the beginning is to prove to your customers you have something of value to offer them. Once you are known, trusted and well liked by your prospects, you raise your chances of them returning in the future.

Frequent follow-ups with quality updates for your list not only helps to prove you have quality information for them on a regular basis, but will help you to weed out those who aren’t really interested in your online business.

#3 Marketing. Marketing to your prospects begins after these relationships have been formed. This is where you start to promote more of what you have to offer to your prospects. You are still working on maintaining their trust as well as providing them with valuable information they have begun to wait for with a state of excitement. They are starting to wait anxiously for your email autoresponders to arrive with something new and interesting for them.

The more interest and excitement you can spark in your prospects, the more they will put into their business. This, in turn results in positive results for your own online business as well.

All of these steps bring you to yet another step in your sales funnel. You potentially now have both front-end and back-end sales. Both streams are working towards your sales funnel becoming the profitable internet business you’ve strived for from the start. Now with your list of prospects growing, you can stop to take a deep breath. The difficult first-steps toward success have been taken.

Creating Lifelong Customers

It’s a well-known realization not all of those from your target market who visit your website will in fact become customers. There is an opportunity here for time, resources and money to be wasted on trying to coax the wrong type of person into the ‘inner sanctum’ of your sales funnel. It’s important to understand your ideal client, before you end up spending a small fortune trying to grab hold of people who won’t do your internet business justice.

Another point to understand how people perfer to buy from those they know, have confidence in, and actually like. These are all aspects you can achieve with each of your customers, even if you never meet them face to face.

Developing this level of trust may take some time; however once it is developed your client will be more open to spending money with you, even on those higher ticket-priced items. They could quickly and easily become a qualified buyer – someone who has already tested the waters so to speak. They have signed up and received your free item, and maybe even purchased your low ticket item. They’re now poised to become a source of reasonable income for your internet business.

In order to keep them coming back, you need to continue to supply them with information relevant to the niche. Gradually working up to higher ticket-priced items, you need to ensure your customers are still receiving quality information. While articles and e-Books are great to start out with, reports and home study courses are good to have in the works from the beginning of your launch. By starting early you know you’ll have these ready for your customers when the time comes for their need.

This is where is becomes important for you to encourage your prospect or customer to revisit, by reminding them you are there. A great strategy for achieving this is to create a mailing list or opt-in list. By offering them some information for free when they sign up, you are not only encouraging them to provide you their information, but also giving them a bite-sized chunk of what type of information they could expect from your communications. This is the beginning of the processes of building that level of trust you require to keep those customers coming back, or waiting with excitement for news from you about new products available to them.

Offering something of value to your site visitors makes it easier for them to agree to pass on their information to you. They know quite well if they give out their contact information, they are going to receive promotional emails or follow-ups from you. It’s paramount to make it worth their while if you want to keep them coming back for more of what you have to offer. Keeping them up-to-date on upcoming features or articles is another great way to keep the suspense and excitement going strong.

Creating lifelong customers does require hard work and dedication. Take great care to plan your content and marketing strategy accordingly. Earn your prospect’s trust and keep it and you will have a lifelong customer.

Searching by Stumbling – Goodbye Google

They tell you that the “top 3” results in Google search are usually authority websites… but the last couple of years, there’s been an annoying trend. You end up wading through the first 3 pages – not the first 3 entries. And out of those 30 results, you’re lucky if you find 3 that are of any value: Indeed, that actually address the issue you’re searching about!

Meanwhile, the time you invested in loading in sites that turned out to be filler for ads, or sketchily padded with poorly-written, unoriginal content – those dreaded “fake blogs” spawned by the more hardened niche bloggers – is time you’ll never get back. (Whatever happened to Google’s promises about “high quality content really being king”?)

People have learned to artificially manipulate the search engines for their own financial gain; and while you would like to be one of the ones gaining financially, you don’t want to do it that way!

If you’re at the point of frustration with irrelevant, spammy Google Search results, join StumbleUpon. In its own words, it’s “a free tool that discovers websites based on your interests, learns what you like and brings you more.”

6 Offenses that Get the Thumbs Down

“More” is the operative word: I joined StumbleUpon by design, and started using it as my exclusive search engine by accident. Why? Because the content it serves up on a sparkly platter is tailored to my exact preferences. Oh, occasionally, I get one that is spammy or suspect – but there’s a certain primitive satisfaction in quickly giving the offender the “thumbs down”, so I will never see his site again. A few thumbs down from like-minded people, and the would-be spammer disappears from Stumble history. Forever.

And the more you stumble and thumbs up-or-down, the more refined the results StumbleUpon serves you.

So what are the things that will make people quickly give a site a “thumbs down”?

1. Popups. StumbleUpon is not the place for them. Nothing can make people hit the “thumbs down” button faster.

2. Sites that take too long to load. Who needs to wait, when you can stumble onto the next one?

3. A lot of advertising. Thumbs down, down, down.

4. Pages that don’t have a strong identity, especially if they have dull or no headlines – a common mistake of people who focus all their design on a home page and neglect interior pages. A page of solid text opinion and nothing else tells you zip about the site owner: It can feel like someone trying to kiss you before they’ve been properly introduced.

5. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. Websites that have tagged themselves (or been tagged) wrongly, so that the content doesn’t match the tags

6. Anything that flashes, whirls, or bursts out into loud music or shouting voices. (Some things never change.)

Even with the occasional dud, I still find I uncover relevant, interesting sites per topic of my choice much more quickly – and with much better results – than if I continue to search with Google.

And even if I do allow myself to “waste time” surfing… it’s way more fun with StumbleUpon’s focused results!

Money Making Product Reviews that Rock

If you want to write money making product reviews you can do it. Just follow these easy steps and you’ll have product reviews that rock! Follow these suggestions and tips each time you create a product review or product review website, and you won’t ever forget anything important to include in your product reviews again. You’ll be able to create product review sites, and write product reviews repeatedly that will make you money over and over again!

Do Your Research — Research is part of every niche product review website and part of every single product review. If you don’t know anything about your target audience, or the type of products they use down to the keywords (search terms) that they use to find the products, then you’re not going to succeed. You want to succeed, start with the research before you even start making the website.

Know Your Competition — Many people think competition is bad, let competition be your guide to building a profitable niche product review website. If there is a successful website about your niche, you can be successful too. Just do it better than anyone else. Do it more, do it more complete, be more honest and your audience will thank you.

Be Above Reproach — Be completely honest and straightforward in all your product reviews. If you received the product free prior to the review, say so. If you bought it yourself, say so. If you hate it and would not use it if your life depended on it, say that too! Having honest reviews that tell readers exactly how you really feel will go very far in creating a feeling of trust in your readers. Trusting readers buy what you recommend.

Know Who The Product is For — Know who wants your products, and who makes your products. If you name the people who will use the product as well as the people who create the products in your website you’ll cover both sides of the fence.

Know What The Product Does — Name the product and name what the product does especially if the name of the product isn’t suggestive of the problem it solves. For instance QuickBooks is financial software for business but you might not know that by just the name. Explain each product completely.

Know When Your Audience Needs It — At what point does your target audience need the product (now!)? You must include a call to action that gets attention and makes your audience want to buy it right now while still maintaining a review feel. Instead of saying buy now, you’ll describe when a member of the target audience needs to use the product. Example: Nursing bras are comfortable to wear toward the end of your pregnancy as your size increases because they are adjustable, and after birth for ease of nursing.

Know Where To Get it and Use It — Might seem obvious, but it is important to tell your target audience where to buy it by providing a link and telling them to click the link to buy or to read more if the link is going to a sales page.

Know Why Readers Should Use it and Why They Trust You– Always explain why your reader should trust what you say about a product. Explain your policies, your rules of doing business, and tell them who you are by demonstrating good judgment and honesty in your reviews.

Close each review with your personal opinion about each item you’ve just stated so that there is no mistaking about whether or not the reader should purchase the product or not. If you are offering a coupon for the product, a premium to the reader if they buy the product from your link, and again provide the link to where to get more information, or buy the product. You can also include “like product” links under each review to keep them on your page if they’re not convinced to buy at this point.

Launching a Product With Article Marketing

In the old days—the way old days – the best ways to launch a new product was by telegraph, telephone or telling a woman to spread the word! With the Internet launching new products and websites every single day, how can you successfully launch your new information product? You have to stand out, you have to create interest, you need to write articles, and you need to blog if you want your info product to succeed and be noticed on the launch date.

Writing articles and submitting them to free online articles sites, like EZines, and eHow, allows other people to read your article, see your website link in the byline, and encourage traffic to your website. Keep your articles short, no more than 400 words, and try to make your articles so enticing that it will create an interest. Articles that are too promotional or full of sales copy will be rejected so choose topics that directly relate to your info product.

You can see if your article marketing efforts are working by checking on how many times people clicked on your articles. Write and submit many of them and use good keywords with a keyword density of no more than three percent so your articles won’t be considered keyword stuffed. Use your keywords in the first paragraph, once or twice in the middle and once at the end—that’s all you need to do. You can check out what the most popular keywords are on Google and Yahoo and use them in your articles—make the keywords somehow fit into what you are writing about.

The beauty of article marketing is that once a free directory publishes your article, then other website owners are invited to also publish your article, complete with author byline and your website link. This just increases the number of people exposed to your article and also creates more back links to your own website.

Article marketing is an easy way to start creating a buzz about your new information product. Submit to free article directories but also volunteer to guest blog on some popular blogs in your field. This increased exposure will surely entice even more people to visit your website and possibly buy your info product.

Driving Traffic to Your Membership Site

So, you’ve decided to begin a membership site in your niche and you have a lot of the design and creation under way. You’ve researched your niche, chosen scripting software, set up a payment processor and loaded your autoresponder with email messages. You’ve created the content for your site, with a nice mix of articles, audios, videos and downloadable digital products for your members. You’ve chosen your prices, secured your domain name and set up your web hosting. You even have enough content in reserve for next month. Whew! You’ve been working hard and now you’re ready for the big bucks to start rolling in, right? After all, what more do you need? You need traffic, that’s what.

So how do you get traffic to your membership site? Driving people to your membership site uses the same tactics as driving traffic to any other website. It all starts with a sales letter.

In order to drive traffic to your site, you need a great sales letter. Many people throw up a sales letter without giving much thought to the quality of that letter. That’s a big mistake because your sales letter is KEY to how much traffic your site will receive.

A good sales letter starts with a great headline. You need a headline to catch the eye of someone who is casually surfing the web looking for something to solve their problems. Your headline should speak directly to your target market. It should announce your benefits in a single concise phrase. Ask a question, offer steps to solve a problem, let your readers know you are tuned in to what they want.

A good sales letter has a hook- something that reels your customer in and makes them want to read more. Often the best hook is in the form of a question. Ask the reader a question that your membership site answers. “Are you looking for a new approach to marketing?” might be a good question for a membership site regarding Internet marketing. “Are you looking for love in all the wrong places” could be a hook for a dating membership site. Another way to hook a reader is to call out your audience in your headline like this: ATTENTION: Calling all Internet Marketers or Do You Make These Marketing Mistakes?

The next step in writing an effective sales letter is to deepen your customer’s problem. If your membership site is a credit counseling service, use your opening paragraphs of your sales page to show your prospect you understand their problem. Debt got you down? Are you having trouble paying your mortgage? Losing sleep because you can’t pay the bills? Drive home the problem so your prospect is a bit uncomfortable thinking about it. You need to remind your prospect of their problem so you can show them why they need your membership site to help them solve it.

Next up? Tell them the benefits of your site. Show them how you can fix their problem. While you will want to talk about the features of your site, like the forum, the newsletter and the content, remember that features are not benefits. Benefits are the good feelings the customer will have after your site solves the problem. Benefits to the credit counseling site might include restoring their good credit, no more phone calls from angry collectors or having the peace of mind of knowing your financial future is secure.

Use links throughout the text of your sales letter. You never know at what point you make the sale with an individual prospect, so offer the sign up link often throughout your text. Some people will click the link immediately, while others will scroll down to the bottom of your page looking for it. Still other prospects will be ready to by when a particular phrases resonates with them, so having links spread throughout the text is your best bet.

Your sales letter is the first and the most important step in driving traffic to your membership site. Take your time and make sure you develop a quality sales page. Don’t rely on hype or misinformation, but make the test interesting and compelling for the best success.

Are You Totally Discounting the `Information’ In Your Information Business?

We hear the term “information product” so often, it’s really lost its meaning – but if you shift your thinking to consider yourself an information business, you can really boost all the online passive income you create.

Because your conversions will reflect that shift in thinking. An information product is an isolated creature. Oh, you know your own niche really well (and you’ve probably got a few more – am I right?)

But most people either sell one lonely product and rush off to milk another niche – or they don’t stop to think of their offerings as a “whole”, each one a vital component in the ultimate authority site on a subject.

Let me show you what I mean…

Your niche is “spinning wool”. You put out an eBook on antique spinning wheels. Then, 3 months later, you offer them one “Double drive spinning wheels”. A month afterwards, it’s “How To Collect Rovings from the Wild”, followed by “Knitting Patterns for Children.”

Letting The Forest Affect The Trees…

You’ve probably spent some time researching keywords to arrive at these as viable additions to your info product offerings… but if you were to shift your thinking and decide to become the ultimate authority site on everything to do with spinning, the consistency and logical progression of your offerings would increase your value as an expert in that niche. Instead of focusing on “trees” like single information products, you’re now focusing on the “forest” – and how the trees affect its general health.

So sit down with a real piece of paper – and a pencil, with an erasable end. Spend some time thinking of all the topics you have to cover, to teach people everything they want to know about spinning wool. I’m betting that’s a lot of topics!

Now organize them, according to category. Some good categories to use “beginner”, “intermediate” and “advanced”. Now, I don’t know the spinning niche – but I’m betting you could easily start thinking up other great categories to move people through – so that each product they buy seems like a logical progression. And as you add more information products, your site will remain well organized, enabling readers to “jump” straight to their appropriate category – without having to browse through eBooks they don’t want.

Organizing your information product empire in this way not only pleases and impresses your visitors and makes full use of your niche opportunities – it will show up in your increased online passive income!

What Does A Successful Joint Venture Partnership look like?

You’ve found a partner who is compatible to you and your business. You work well with him and you are ready to launch into the next phase of business planning. You pause. You realize that before you take your next step it might benefit you to know what a successful joint venture relationship looks like. To begin with you should expect to share all responsibilities. Your customer reach should increase as well as your profit but your partner should reap those same rewards. Finally, you will notice a marked increase in your productivity because you have a partner to stay accountable toward.

First and foremost a successful partnership involves shared responsibility. This means that the workload is evenly distributed among the partners. No one person gets stuck with all the dirty work. You can agree to do all the graphics if you prefer but you shouldn’t be expected to do it all, especially if your partner is just as capable of creating outstanding graphics.

A symbiotic partnership will look like a committed relationship. Each person will see to it that the other is treated fairly and with respect. Forgiveness and understanding will be the keys to longevity in the relationship. Competition will be non existent and trust will outweigh suspicion.

Second, your potential customer reach should be expanding past your normal reach. You should be reaching not only your readers and customers but also the readers and customers of your partner. This grows your business twice as fast in the same amount of time.

Each will be promoting the other in various means. Press releases will be sent to notify the public of your partnership. Interviews will be given and eBooks written. Everything you do for this venture will ultimately be for the joint goal of success.

Nothing builds productivity more than accountability. Knowing that you have to report your progress to someone pushes you to complete a project on time. Sure, you are in business for yourself but any successful solopreneur will tell you it is the support of their team that drives their success.

Built in evaluations and reviews will help you stay on target. Evaluate how your businesses compliment each other periodically. Partnerships are rarely long-term relationships. You might outgrow each other or your businesses might change direction.

Last but certainly not least, a successful partnership will be profitable for all. You might divide the profits directly in half or you might choose to split it by a fixed percentage. It depends on what is being done and what each partner is offering.

Having a written contract that explains each part of the partnership as well as what is expected of each party will ensure that all involved are protected.

A great partnership, just like a great relationship, is cultivated over time. Commit to getting to know each other. Develop trust. Partnering with someone who is like-minded both in their personal ethics and their business ethics will produce the most beneficial business venture.

Marketer-Friendly Social Network Digg Now has Ads

If you’ve never used Digg, you might want to take a second (or even first) look at it: Not only is it marketer friendly, it now allows you to openly promote your own advertising content on its home page.

If you haven’t yet checked it out, relax: There are more marketers hiding this sort of guilty secret than they care to admit. (It’s called “overwhelm”). So first let’s take a look at exactly what Digg offers…

Think of finding a patch of really beautiful flowers, digging it up and transporting it to a communal garden or park, for everyone to enjoy. That’s basically Digg’s mandate with online content.

Then Digg users vote on it. If it gets enough vote, it’s transplanted to the front page.

Simple, eh?

This user-driven platform means even less dependence on keywords than formerly. The only “search algorithm” doesn’t even depend on a search: It is based strictly on reader votes. True social sharing at its most democratic.

Digg helps the process along by providing tools to make sharing and discussion easy. These tools include iPhone apps, Digg buttons and widget generators, as well as platforms such as Digg TV. It also provides page headers, designs, scripts, logo buttons and graphics. (The catch is, once you place your content on Digg’s pages, under the terms of use, you’re placing it into the public domain.)

Digg offers a number of options for marketers wishing to advertise. You can choose:

– A sponsored news article placed inline with organic content
– The Digg Dialogg Package, an sponsorship package “where leaders and luminaries” (from Al Gore to Trent Reznor) answer top questions from the Digg community
– Standard and rich media IAB roadblocks and placements on home page and articles
– The Super L Package, a “prominent roadblock experience” incorporating both your message and your brand on a header leaderboard and right rail. Includes rich media options
– The Slider Package, strictly rich media “politely engaging the Digg community” via an expanding teaser ad
– Digg Content Ads, which are meant to leverage popular, current content the community is already engaged with

Digg’s usage took a sharp rise from 10.9 million to almost 24 million between December 2009 till today’s time of writing, March 2010. That’s over double its population in less than 3 months – could the ads have something to do with it?

Quantcast.com shows its demographic as biased towards males (57%), in the 18-34 age range with a higher than average group reporting an income over $100k per annum. Interestingly, there’s also a higher than average percentile of African American, Asian and Hispanic users represented, even though the demographic itself is 73% Caucasian.

(Quantcast is a place you should always check, before deciding if a social network is aligned with your own target niche. It can tell you at a glance if it deserves more scrutiny).

Even if it does look like the perfect platform for your niche… as always, for the best results, make sure you actually have a presence on this social media platform, before attempting to advertise!

Optimize Your Landing Pages to Get More Leads

If you want more leads, there is more to it than simply bringing in traffic to your website. Not only do you need to bring in targeted traffic often, but you also need to convert them to people who want to provide their information to you. There are only a few ways to do this and they all have to do with building trust. If you have a lousy landing page design you won’t get past the first click.

You Only Have Seconds to Impress — Most people click through to a website’s landing page and give it just a second or two before they click away. If you want people to stick around on your page long enough to sign up for your email list you’re going to have to realize what’s at stake and how little time you really have to impress them.

Don’t Overdo Your Landing Pages — Simple and clean is better than busy and overwrought, and there is new thought going into creating shorter more simple landing pages. A great idea is to create a separate landing page for the different places you’ve supplied a link back to your site whether it’s an advertisement, social media clicks, or from a blog post — but keeping the design simple and the message straight forward.

Understand Your Unique Selling Proposition — What makes you different from anyone else who is selling what you’re selling? How does your product or service approach the problem differently than the next guy? If your visitor clicked through from an article about learning how to create an excel spreadsheet, and went to a blog post on bathing kittens they would not be that impressed. It’s important to answer your prospects questions so that they immediately know your position.

Know What Your Goals Are — When you run and advertisement or place a guest blog post, or do an interview, or perform at a speaking engagement do you know what your goals are? If you don’t, then you should work on that. Knowing why you want people to visit your site, or listen to you speak, is one in the same. You can’t fulfill your goals if you can’t answer what they are.

Focus on Building Relationships — People like to buy from those whom they know, like and trust. If you can be someone that your audience trusts, because you have demonstrated trust by not sending them to an article about cats when they wanted to find out how to build spreadsheets, they will be intrigued enough to keep learning about you and clicking through to other parts of your website.

Be Consistent With Your Message — Whatever your overarching message is, it’s imperative that you are always consistent with the message. For instance, if you are a food blogger, and you are against using soy products, but you sell a weekly menu planner which lists soy products as some of the ingredients, you will confuse your audience. If you outsource some of the work it’s on you to ensure that your message is consistent by giving clear information to your contractors, then checking and double checking to ensure the message is coherent.

Don’t Forget the Call To Action — Even if you have your sign up form in 10 places, and as a pop up and pop under on your website if you’re not clear about what you want your audience to do when they get to your site and read your message, they’re not going to do anything. Every single article or video on your website should end with a call to action. Every. Single. Time.

Finally, for the first sign up form, don’t make it too complicated. Even when someone gives you their initial information they aren’t sure yet if they totally trust you. Take their name and email address and later you can get more information from them as you convert them from leads to customers and start making money.