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7 Simple Steps to Grow Your Online Business

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7 Simple Steps to Grow Your Online Business

Running an online business is an excellent way to be your own boss, work on your own terms, and (hopefully) make a lot of money.

But growing an online business can be challenging. There’s a decent learning curve, and the way people interact with the digital world is constantly changing.

I’ve personally grown three separate six-figure online businesses over the last 10 years, and I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to earn more. I’ve distilled everything I’ve learned about growing an online business into the following seven steps.

Step 1. Figure out where your best customers are

Before you start investing in ads or spending countless hours trying to grow a social media account, you should do some market research to find valuable information about your market and audience—one of the most important things being where your potential customers go for their information.

You can post all you want on Instagram. But if the people buying your products don’t use Instagram, that time and effort will be wasted. I like to avoid wasted effort, so here are three ways to figure out where you should spend your time:

1. Research your niche on forums

Forums like Reddit are a gold mine of information for consumer research. There’s a subreddit for nearly any topic imaginable, and people share all kinds of information there.

For example, let’s say I want to start selling dirt bike parts. I could type “dirt bikes” into Reddit and immediately find the r/Dirtbikes subreddit, which is full of dirt bike owners and enthusiasts.

Reddit forum research

As I scroll through the posts, the first thing that stands out to me is the massive number of YouTube links and videos in the posts.

YouTube links in RedditYouTube links in Reddit

That tells me the dirt bike community probably watches a lot of YouTube videos. So that could be a potential marketing channel for me that I know my community is using.

2. Check social media to see what kind of content does well

Obviously, dirt biking is a pretty popular hobby, and there’s going to be a lot of content about it on pretty much every major platform. But if I check Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook groups, I can see what kind of content is promoted in each place and compare that to the kind of content I personally want to create.

For example, Instagram tends to have a lot of pictures and videos of women on dirt bikes.

Instagram dirt bikes searchInstagram dirt bikes search

This isn’t the kind of content I want to create, so I’ll skip this platform. But if I check YouTube, I can see tutorial videos and riding videos with millions of views.

YouTube viewsYouTube views

Since I’m looking to sell parts, I can definitely do videos of riding and parts replacement tutorials on YouTube to promote my brand. I also noticed that TikTok has a lot of cool videos, and I could use the videos I’m already making for YouTube to also create content on TikTok.

You can also use a tool like SparkToro to save time in this process. It’s a customer research tool that gives you insights about what people follow, including social media accounts, websites, podcasts, YouTube channels, and more.

You just type in a keyword your audience would be interested in…

SparkToro search functionSparkToro search function

… and it displays demographic and social information about your target audience.

SparkToro audience researchSparkToro audience research

You get five searches for free, but you do have to pay for the full suite of information available.

So now we’ve covered forums, social media, and consumer research tools. But I saved the best for last…

3. Do some keyword research to see if you can rank on Google.

Chances are, if you own an online business, you have customers searching for your products or services on Google.

I’m a strong believer that every online business can benefit from search engine optimization (SEO). It’s my favorite marketing channel because it can bring highly targeted, relevant traffic on autopilot… without needing to constantly spend money on ads.

However, some niches are extremely competitive and, while you should still use SEO for the long term, it may not be your best focus in the short term.

The best way to figure that out is with some keyword research. Head over to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and plug in some keywords that characterize your niche. For example, I can search for things like “dirt bike parts” or “dirt bikes” to start.

You’ll get some information about a keyword, such as how many people search for it every month (volume) and how difficult that keyword may be to rank for (Keyword Difficulty). 

Ahrefs' keyword explorer dirt bike partsAhrefs' keyword explorer dirt bike parts

But what’s more important are the keyword ideas below these stats. If you click anything under Keyword ideas on the left-hand menu, you’ll be taken to keywords that match or are related to the one you searched for.

Ahrefs' Keyword IdeasAhrefs' Keyword Ideas

From here, you can filter this list based on search volume, Keyword Difficulty (KD), Traffic Potential (TP), and more.

But what are you looking for?

If most of the keywords have a KD of <40, it could mean you have a solid chance of ranking on page one of Google for those keywords with good enough content. Keep in mind, however, that this is just a rough metric—a quantification like this can never be perfect, and you can still rank for keywords that have high KD with enough effort.

By now, you should know which social media platforms you want to be active on and if SEO may be something you really want to focus on. Next, let’s make sure your business is actually ready for growth.

Step 2. Create a solid user experience

Too many businesses neglect the usability and appearance of their websites. If your website looks outdated, loads slowly, or is difficult to navigate, you’re going to miss out on sales no matter how good your marketing is. 

Here’s how to make sure your customers have a first-class experience on your website:

1. Ensure your website loads fast

Your webpages should all load within two to three seconds at most (faster is always better). If people spend too long waiting around for a page to load, they will leave and go somewhere else.

You can check your website’s load speed for free with a tool like PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed Insights ToolGoogle PageSpeed Insights Tool

You’ll also see whether or not your website is passing Google’s Core Web Vitals test, which is one of Google’s many ranking factors.

Google Core Web Vitals testGoogle Core Web Vitals test

Click here to read our guide on website speed optimization if this is an issue for you. Consider hiring a developer if this is beyond your ability and you don’t have time to learn.

2. Improve your website structure

Your website structure is important for both your users and search engine crawlers. It’s an important step in building a strong online business.

Ask yourself:

  • How easy is it for users to navigate your website? 
  • Can they find the page they’re looking for in three clicks or fewer from any page on your site? 
  • Does the navigation menu make it easy for customers to flow through your funnel?

The best way I’ve found to improve your site’s structure is by creating a visual map of all the pages on your site and how they connect to one another. 

You can use a tool like XMind to do this. Here’s how we use it at Ahrefs:

Your goal should be to create as flat of a website structure as possible—meaning, none of your pages are more than a few clicks deep to get to. Here’s a visual:

Flat vs Deep Website StructureFlat vs Deep Website Structure

You should focus on basing your categories around keyword research and properly using internal links to keep everything tied together.

3. Use high-quality media

Tell me—what looks better?

This…

Cheesy office stock imageCheesy office stock image
Source: A free image from Pixabay.

… or this?

Paid stock imagePaid stock image
Source: A paid stock image provided by Canva.

The former is a free stock photo; the latter was paid for. 

Stock photos and videos can look cheesy and unprofessional. It’s worth investing a couple of bucks into purchasing higher-quality stock assets like Shutterstock or Canva Pro.

You can also find tons of really high-quality free and paid photos on Unsplash.

It can even be worth investing in a photographer or videographer, or learning these skills yourself, in order to improve your website. These media assets are the first thing a customer sees when they visit your website; these impressions matter.

Beyond these three things—speed, navigation, and media—there are a few other things to pay attention to:

  • Fonts used
  • Color scheme
  • Overall theme/layout
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • And more

If you follow our guide to creating an SEO-friendly website, you’ll hit on all these points AND have an optimized website. That said, it may be worth looking into hiring a developer to help you if website design isn’t your strong suit.

Step 3. Decide on two to three key marketing channels

Social media, SEO, paid advertising, content marketing…

As entrepreneurs, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it all. And that’s just the marketing side—only one of the many things we need to focus on to build and grow a successful business.

To avoid burnout and spreading yourself too thin, I highly recommend focusing on just two or three main marketing channels—at least at the start. You can expand as you earn enough (and learn enough) to hire people for these roles.

Some of your options include:

  • SEO
  • YouTube
  • Paid ads
  • Social media
  • Podcasting

My personal favorite marketing channel is SEO. 

However, which channels you decide to pursue first should always be the channels you believe will be most effective for your business. The best approach is to mix channels that target your audience in different parts of the customer journey:

Customer journey exampleCustomer journey example

In step #1, you should have done some basic keyword research to see if you may be able to rank highly on Google. If you find that the keywords are relatively easy to rank for and relevant to your products or services, I always recommend learning and implementing SEO. The fact that SEO focuses on the whole customer journey makes it even more compelling.

Beyond that, you should also have a rough idea of which social media platforms or podcasts your audience cares about and what kind of content you prefer to create. Pick one of those channels to use in conjunction with SEO.

Lastly, you can use paid advertising. However, there is a greater risk of losing money on paid ads if you don’t know what you’re doing. I will only consider it if you already have some experience with it or if you can afford to hire someone else. Otherwise, learn one of the free channels and branch into paid ads once your business is already making money.

Step 4. Create high-quality, relevant content

Regardless of which marketing channels you decide to pursue, there is one thing you’ll always need: quality content.

Whether it’s videos for TikTok or YouTube, photos for Instagram, blog posts for SEO, or another medium, your content needs to stand out among the sea of mediocre stuff online.

But what does it mean to “create high-quality content”?

It means your content is some combination of:

  • Engaging
  • Relevant
  • Unique
  • Informative

This means it’s something that your audience cares about and is put together in a way that’s interesting and captures their attention. The way to do this varies depending on your audience and the platform(s) you market on.

For example, ranking on page one of Google requires your content to be accurate, well-formatted, unique, and authoritative. 

Making quality content for TikTok, on the other hand, requires a different approach. TikTok viewers value things that make them happy or surprise them above anything else, according to this study.

Percentage of popular videos and their corresponding emotion on TikTokPercentage of popular videos and their corresponding emotion on TikTok

That means the idea of what makes “quality content” is hard to define and depends on the platform.

What’s important is that you put a lot of effort into creating and continuing to improve your content. 

Quality will come over time as you learn what your audience likes and how to be a better writer, videographer, photographer, or podcaster—as long as you yourself continue to stay focused and improve.

Dedicate to learning as much as possible about your niche and your business and using what you learn to do better on the next piece of content, whatever that may be.

Here are some guides that can help you hone your craft:

Step 5. Develop strong partnerships

You understand your customer. Your website rocks. You chose your marketing channels. And your content game is on point.

Next up, it’s time to become a player in the bigger game that is your industry.

One good partnership can skyrocket your online business and your brand. I was able to grow one of my blogs to a half-million-per-year income on a single strong partnership simply because I took the time to connect with them and come up with ideas to promote one another.

Partnerships can help you build links for SEO, market your content, and even put more money in your pocket directly through affiliate marketing. It’s not something you should ignore.

But how do you find brand partners?

Easy. Think about all the products you already use and love and reach out to those brands. Send them an email. Or better yet, pick up the phone.

Tell them about your traffic and your capabilities to help promote them and their business. Offer to promote them to your email list and your social media following. Add their products to your blog posts on your website.

For example, here’s an email template you can use:

Hey [name],

My name is [your name]. I run [your business], and we [explain what your business is about in a few words]. 

I’m reaching out because I’ve been using [their product(s)] for a few years now and absolutely love it (them). In fact, [personal story about using their product].

Our website/social media accounts gets/get [number of visitors] people every month looking for information on [their product]. I would love to work something out where we can promote you to our audience. Can we hop on a quick phone call to discuss?

I’m free X time on X date or Y time on Y date.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Cheers,

[Your name]

If you can’t think of any brands you love off the top of your head, the next best thing to do is to start Googling products or services in your niche. Find websites with a decent number of social media followers but aren’t so big that you’ll likely be ignored. I find 10,000 to 100,000 followers to generally be a good, sweet spot of influence and size.

You can find brands to partner with while doing your regular keyword research. For example, while looking up the search results for keywords I might want to use, I found the local website “RideNow Chandler.”

Dirt bike trails Google resultsDirt bike trails Google results

If we check its Instagram, we can see it has around 3,500 followers. A little lower than I prefer, but it could still be worth trying.

Ride Now Chandler Instagram accountRide Now Chandler Instagram account

Since it is a local group, I may be able to work with it on local events on top of digital ones. So even though it doesn’t have a huge online audience, it could still be a high-value partner.

One last tip: Picking up the phone, sending a hand-written letter to the right person, or even meeting people in person at events are the quickest ways to get on someone’s radar. Don’t be afraid to network.

Step 6. Automate, delegate, and delete

It’s time to stop thinking like a solopreneur. At this point, you need to think like an executive.

Executives of giant companies like Apple or Microsoft have a literally infinite to-do list. There’s always something they could be doing. And the same is true for you.

Instead of frantically attacking your to-do list, you should be removing as many tasks as possible so you can focus only on the most important things.

To do that, start with a brain dump. Write down every single task you need to do, including the tasks you do more than once. For example, my list can look like this:

  • Research keywords for SEO
  • Outline, write, edit, and publish blog content
  • Share the content on Facebook, on Twitter, and with my email list
  • Communicate with affiliate partners
  • Send invoices
  • Send outreach emails for link building
  • Outline, write, edit, and send guest posts
  • And a million other things 

Now, let’s take a look at these tasks. Some of them are pretty simple and repetitive, such as uploading an article to my blog. Others require specific skills, such as keyword research and outlining an article.

What I’m trying to figure out is which of my tasks need to be done by me, which can be automated using software or settings, which I can delegate to a freelancer or employee, and which simply don’t need to be done at all.

For example: 

  • If I bill a client the same amount every month, I can set up automatic invoicing so I don’t have to go in and create one every time.
  • I can use a tool like Wordable to upload my articles from Google Docs to WordPress and completely cut out the task of uploading.
  • Instead of writing my own content, maybe I can hire a freelancer or content creation agency to do it for me.
  • I can hire a relatively cheap virtual assistant to post my articles on social media and email for me.

By going through this exercise, you can save yourself a lot of time, energy, and money on tasks that you simply don’t need to be doing yourself. This is one of the secrets of highly successful people and businesses.

Step 7. Scale your efforts

Finally, it’s time to take everything you’ve learned and scale it up. Once you’ve figured out how to make a profit online, you can cut what isn’t working and double down on what is.

In this step, you’ll want to focus more on removing yourself from as many tasks as possible to focus on overall business strategy rather than the day-to-day operations.

This means hiring people to do all of the business tasks that don’t directly require you to do them. But to do that, you need to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) that outline how to do each of those tasks in detail.

For example, here is part of the SOP we use for blog posts at Ahrefs:

Ahrefs' content creation SOPAhrefs' content creation SOP

Here are some guides you can follow to learn how to scale your online business:

Final thoughts

Learning how to grow an online business takes time. Don’t be discouraged if your results don’t pay off right away. These skills that you’re learning will continue to pay off for a lifetime to come.

I personally started and “failed” five different businesses before I found the one that I enjoyed enough to continue to work on. I put “failed” in quotes because I don’t view them as failures. Rather, I see them as learning experiences. 

If I didn’t “fail” five times, I wouldn’t have succeeded in building the following three businesses that I’ve run. Like anything else, consistent effort and the occasional “failure” are the things you need to master the skill of growing an online business.

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SEO

Lead Generation: How To Get Started

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Lead Generation: How To Get Started

Today’s consumers have an almost limitless amount of information at their fingertips. Podcasts, videos, blog posts, and social media – are just a few of the sources that can drive them toward one brand over another.

If it’s your job to attract these potential customers, you know the struggles of generating high-quality leads.

In this piece, we’ll take a closer look at lead generation, discussing the different types of leads you could attract and providing some strategies and examples for lead gen that you can put to use right away.

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is a marketing process of capturing potential consumers who show interest in your product or service.

The goal is to connect with people early in the buying process, earn their trust and build a relationship so that, when they’re ready to make a purchase, they buy from you.

But lead generation also serves secondary objectives, including building brand awareness, collecting customer data, and fostering brand loyalty.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember that not everyone who visits your store or website is a lead.

That’s why successful lead gen goes after specific targets, using a variety of platforms and strategies including:

  • Landing pages – Using a tracking pixel, landing pages collect information about visitors you can later use to target them for sales.
  • Email – Email is a great lead generation tool because the recipients will have opted in, which means they’re already familiar with your brand.
  • Social media – With unmatched opportunities for engagement, your social media accounts are a great way to encourage your targets to take action.
  • Blogs – A great way to establish authority and provide value, blogs are also a great place to promote specific offers.
  • Live events – When it comes to qualifying leads, live events are a great way to meet your target audience and quickly identify the ones more likely to make a purchase.
  • Coupons and other promotions – Offering a discount or free item is a great way to encourage targets to provide their contact information.

What will ultimately work best for you will depend on your niche and your audience.

As you experiment with different lead generation strategies, you may find one more successful than the others. This means you should probably make that channel your priority, whereas others may not be of any use at all.

But we’ll get to all that later.

First, let’s talk about leads.

The Different Types Of Leads

Sales is the engine that drives any business. Without sales, there’s no revenue. Without revenue, there’s no business. So, it’s kind of important.

But it’s a massive field. The approach a medical monitoring sensor salesperson takes is going to be very different from a used car salesman.

But both of them – and every other sales professional for that matter – have one thing in common: they need to spend most of their time pursuing the people who are most likely to buy.

In general, leads fall into seven categories:

  • Hot Leads – These leads are ready to convert. They are qualified and interested in your offering, and are the most likely to convert to a sale. For example, this might be the purchasing director who has had several conversations with you and received a product demo. They have purchasing authority and a timeline.
  • Cold Leads – These are potential customers who may be unfamiliar with your brand or offering. As of yet, they have shown no interest in what you’re selling. Generally speaking, these are the hardest leads to convert to sales.
  • Warm Leads – A middle ground between the two previous types of leads, these are people who are familiar with who you are and what you offer. They’re the type who watch your videos or read your blogs, but haven’t contacted you directly. Your goal is to warm them up into hot leads.
  • Information Qualified Leads (IQLs) – This is the kind of lead who has already shown some interest in your company and has followed a call to action. Maybe they signed up for your email newsletter or filled out a lead generation form. They are often looking for more information and will react positively to a nurturing campaign.
  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) – MQLs are one step further down the pipeline from IQLs. They are actively searching for a solution that fits their needs, and are trying to discover if yours is the right fit. These are the types of leads who will download your whitepapers, watch your videos, and attend your corporate seminars.
  • Sales Ready Leads (SRLs) – Sometimes called “accepted leads,” these are the bottom-of-the-funnel leads who are almost ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. It’s important to understand their budgets, purchasing authority, needs, and timeframe.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) – These leads are ready to buy and should be in communication with your sales team. They are considered very hot, however, you should be aware that they are likely still considering some of your competitors.

The Lead Generation Process

As you have probably gathered by this point, lead generation is a multiple-step process.

Yours will vary, depending on whether you’re focusing on inbound or outbound generation – but both should follow a similar pathway.

Step 1: Do Your Research

Before you start trying to collect leads, you need to gather as much information as possible about your target audience. You want to know not just who they are, but where they live, what’s important to them, and most importantly, what their pain points are, particularly those that are the most pressing.

It’s often a good idea to create customer personas, in which you define the demographics, budget, and needs of typical customers. You may want to consider social habits, professional experience, and even psychological traits.

Once you know who you’re going after, it’s time to identify where they are. Are they active on Facebook, or more likely to respond to an email? Again, this will vary depending on your specific circumstances.

This is also the stage where you should check out the competition. What are they doing? What differentiates your offering from theirs? And most importantly, why is it better?

Step 2: Create Great Content

By now, you should know what needs your offering fills for your potential customers. Use this information to create content that solves it.

Your choice of medium will affect your content format. For example, videos work great on social media, but you can’t embed them in an email.

Likewise, if you’re going after your target audience on Twitter, your lengthy blogs are going to need to be linked to, or at the very least truncated.

Never forget your focus is on adding value. Each piece of content you create should serve a specific purpose, whether that’s educating your audience about your offering, building brand awareness or promoting a sale.

Step 3: Develop A Lead Generation Database

You can have the hottest leads on the planet, but they won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t handle them the right way.

You should create and use a lead database where you can record, study, filter, and segment your potential customers.

Ideally, you’ll want to get an automated CRM system to dramatically reduce the labor involved with this.

Most of these will allow you to tag leads based on the type and how hot they are. This allows your sales team to work through their lists in a more efficient manner, dedicating the most attention to those with the biggest chance of converting.

Step 4: Qualify And Score Leads

Not all leads are going to be in the same place in the sales funnel. Some will be ready to buy today, while others may just be getting an idea of what’s out there.

You need to adjust your approach based on this.

Most companies use a lead scoring system of 1-100, which indicates approximately where the lead is in the customer journey. They are assigned points based on their actions, with more serious actions resulting in more points.

For example, following your Facebook page could be worth 10 points, filling out a “Request a demo” form might be worth 20, and opening and reading an email could be 5. If a lead does all three of these, their lead score would be 35.

These numbers will give you a general idea of where they are from the following stages:

  • New leads, who have just made initial contact.
  • Working leads, with whom you have had contact and initiated a conversation.
  • Nurturing leads, who are not interested in buying right now, but might in the future.
  • Unqualified leads, who are not interested in your offering. These are sometimes called “dead leads.”
  • Qualified leads, or those who want to do business with you.

Obviously, you should focus more time and energy on the leads that have a higher probability of converting.

Lead Generation Strategies And Examples

The ways you can generate leads are practically endless, but in this section, we’ll discuss some of the more common strategies you can employ, plus give you examples of them at work.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the practice of creating engaging and informative content that provides value for leads and customers, thereby generating interest in a business.

This can span both traditional and digital marketing, and is an important part of any successful marketing strategy. It can include things like newsletters, podcasts, videos, and social media.

You can use content marketing for any stage of the sales funnel, from growing brand awareness with timely blogs, creating demand or demonstrating thought leadership with white papers, driving organic traffic via SEO, building trust, and earning customer loyalty.

To make the most of yours, offer many opt-in opportunities and make them more enticing by adding discounts, guides, or something of value in exchange.

Email Marketing

Email remains a popular choice for lead generation for a good reason: it works.

A study by Mailchimp found 22.71% of marketing emails were opened, with some industries seeing even higher rates.

Whether you’re sending out a monthly newsletter or a cold outreach email to a potential prospect, email remains one of your best bets for generating new leads.

One of the more cost-effective means of generating leads, email marketing also allows you to segment your targets with customized content that promotes maximum engagement.

Another reason email marketing is a favorite for so many organizations is that it provides incredible opportunities for tracking. A quality CRM will give you a lot of useful data, including open rate, engagement time, and subscriber retention, allowing you to fine-tune your campaigns.

Social Media Marketing

Almost everyone is on social media these days, which makes it the ideal place to hunt down leads.

Social media platforms not only allow you to directly interact with your followers, but they also let you create advertising targeted at highly specific audiences.

Interaction is simplified thanks to multiple user-friendly CTAs like Instagram Stories’ skip option and truncated URLs on Twitter.

Screenshot from Facebook, January 2023

Social media is also a great place to run contests or share gated content.

You can use paid ads like the one above to target new leads,  share content that will generate them organically, or ideally, a mix of both.

Coupons, Discounts, And Free Trials

If you’re like many people, you may be reluctant to provide your email address to businesses in case they start spamming your inbox.

As a business, however, this can be a problem.

The way to overcome this trepidation is to offer people something of value in return for their contact information.

A risk-free trial or discount code is a powerful tool for overcoming sales barriers. And once a target has tried your offering, you can retarget them with additional offers to encourage a sale.

Give them a free gift, offer a coupon, or allow them to take your product for a test drive, and you’ll find many more people willing to give you their info.

Free pizza couponScreenshot from author, January 2023

Online Ads

Display advertisements are videos and images that pop up as you’re browsing websites, apps, and social media.

They, along with paid search and PPC, are a great way to reach your intended customers where they are.

Display ads are particularly useful for targeting leads across the buyers’ journey, as well as promoting awareness and sales, promotions, or new products.

google search ads result for chairsScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Remarketing ads are a great way to reengage leads who have stopped short of a purchase, while non-intrusive native ads are perfect for extending your content marketing efforts.

Referral Marketing

A great way to find new leads is to let your existing customers find them for you. Encourage them to write reviews or recommend friends in return for a discount or something else of value.

AAA insurance referral adImage from AAA Insurance, January 2023

This is an excellent way to fill your funnel of leads – and make more sales. Referrals and online reviews give you an authenticity and trust level that no in-house marketing campaign can ever duplicate.

Did you know that when shopping online, more than 99.9% of people read reviews? Or that 94% of consumers acknowledged positive reviews made them more likely to support a business? And that’s not even including the power of personal recommendations from friends and family.

Referral marketing is a great tool for lead generation because it presents your brand in a positive light to more people.

Best Practices For Lead Generation

To ensure you’re getting the most out of your lead generation efforts, keep these tips in mind:

Use Your Data

You likely have a lot of information about leads and the types of strategies that work for them already at your fingertips.

Gather yours by looking at previous pieces that have worked well, whether it’s blogs that get a lot of reads, emails that have a high open-rate, or display ads that bring in a lot of traffic.

Look for general themes or things you did differently on high-performers. This will give you insight into the kind of things that resonate with your audience.

Be Consistent With Messaging

Make sure it’s very obvious to any web visitor or email recipient what action they should take next. Offer them a reason to click your links and keep your messaging clear and consistent.

You should maintain the same tone of voice across channels as you move prospects through the sales funnel. Remember, you’re not just interested in capturing data – you’re trying to create a customer.

A/B Testing

Every marketer knows the importance of testing different versions of collateral. This is because, no matter how well something is performing, it could always do better.

You should experiment with different headlines, images, body copy, etc.

Just remember to only test one aspect at once, lest you miss which change made a difference.

And again, don’t forget the opt-ins.

Use The Power Of CRM Technology

To ensure your sales and marketing teams are operating as efficiently as possible, but a lead generation platform to work for you.

The right tool can help you gather information about your targets, monitor their behavior on your website and identify what’s driving them to you.

Armed with this data, you can then optimize your pages and campaigns to better target your audience.

Create Enticing Offers At Every Stage

People at different stages of the purchasing journey want different things.

Someone who is just curious about seeing what’s out there isn’t likely to respond to a free demo offer, but someone who is further along the funnel might.

Make sure you’re offering something for every buying stage and that you have clear CTAs throughout your materials.

Integrate Social Media

Social media is the ideal platform for initiating conversations and interactions with leads at all stages.

While many marketers typically think of it as primarily for top-of-funnel targeting, by strategically using proven offers and other things of value, you can also go after those leads who are closer to making a purchase.

Clean Up Your Landing Pages

Users want information presented to them in a clean, easy-to-understand manner. No one is trying to read “War and Peace” to find a new vending machine supplier.

Put your important information at the top, and make it clear where visitors can input their information to contact you or get content.

Use Your Partners

Co-marketing is a great way to generate new leads because it allows you to piggyback on the efforts of partner companies.

Create mutually beneficial offers and you’ll spend the word about your brand to a larger audience, which will attract new leads.

Bring Your Sales Team In

Marketers prime the pump, but sales drives the action. Make sure to loop your sales team into the lead generation process early and often.

They will likely have personal insight into what works best to move targets along the purchasing path.

This will also ensure you remain on the same page as far as what terms mean.

Remarket, Remarket, Remarket

Almost no one makes a purchase on first contact, particularly in B2B sales. That makes remarketing an important arrow for your quiver.

It helps turn bouncers into leads and abandoners into customers – and it amplifies all your other marketing activities.

Make Lead Generation A Priority

No one ever said it was easy to find, score, and qualify leads, but it’s an important part of ensuring the growth and financial health of your business.

Nurturing customers and potential customers is hard work. But without it, you’ll struggle to make new sales.

This piece only covered lead generation from a high level, but hopefully, it has equipped you with some strategies you can employ to attract new leads and nurture existing ones.

If you only take a single thing away from this make it this: Put most of your efforts into higher-quality leads, because they’re the ones who are most likely to make a purchase.

And remember – lead generation is an ongoing process. You’re not going to see results overnight, but if you put in the work, you’ll start to generate the results you want.

Happy hunting.

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Response to ChatGPT $20 Plan: Take My Money!

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Response to ChatGPT $20 Plan: Take My Money!

OpenAI announced a new subscription service to ChatGPT called ChatGPT Plus that offers several benefits over the free version. Fans of OpenAI were wildly enthusiastic about the prospect for a more reliable service.

Many users around the world were pleased to know that the free version will continue to be offered.

OpenAI ChatGPT

ChatGPT is a useful AI tool for writing-related tasks, as well as for obtaining general information.

The free version is used by millions of users. Although it is hosted on Microsoft data centers the service falters during periods of peak usage and becomes unavailable.

OpenAI benefits from the usage because the feedback is useful for training the machine to become better.

The new subscription model is intended to subsidize the free users.

OpenAI Subscription Model

The new subscription version, called ChatGPT Plus, will cost $20/month.

Initially, ChatGPT will be available to users in the United States and will expand to other countries and regions “soon.”

There is no estimate or indication of how soon the service will be available outside of the United States.

But the fact that there’s a waitlist for United States users to subscribe might be an indication.

The Public Is Enthusiastic

To say that potential customers are enthusiastic about ChatGPT Plus is an understatement.

The response on Twitter could be boiled down to one phrase: Shut up and take my money.

 

One person applauded OpenAI for keeping a free version available:

Multiple people asked about plans for non-profits and for students.

This tweet is representative of the requests for student plans:

Future of ChatGPT

ChatGPT will be launching a ChatGPT API waitlist soon, which will open up the service to new ways of interacting with it.

OpenAI also plans to learn more about user needs and how to best serve users during the course of the new subscription service.

Once they have more experience with it, OpenAI plans to offer additional plans, including lower cost versions.

They shared:

“…we are actively exploring options for lower-cost plans, business plans, and data packs for more availability.”

This could have been Google’s win.But OpenAI and Microsoft beat them with a useful product and have captured the fascination and admiration of users worldwide.

2023 is going to be an exciting year of AI driven innovation.

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Email Marketing: An In-Depth Guide

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Email Marketing: An In-Depth Guide

Email has revolutionized the way people communicate. From facilitating remote work to monitoring bank balances, it has become an integral part of everyday life.

It has also become a powerful tool for marketers. It has changed the way brands and customers interact with each other, providing incredible opportunities to target audiences at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

In other words, when it comes to getting the most bang for your marketing buck, nothing matches the power of email.

Providing an average return on investment of $36 for every $1 spent, email marketing is one of the most profitable and effective ways of reaching your targets.

Globally used by more than 4 billion people, it has unparalleled reach and is perfect for every step of the buyer’s journey, from generating awareness to encouraging brand loyalty.

If you’re not currently using email marketing to promote your business, you should be.

But to reap the biggest benefits, you need to do more than just dash off a message and sending it out to your contacts. You need a strategy that will help you nurture relationships and initiate conversations.

In this piece, we’ll take an in-depth look at the world of marketing via email and give you a step-by-step guide you can use to launch your own campaigns.

What Is Email Marketing?

If you have an email address of your own – and it’s probably safe to assume that you do – you’re likely already at least somewhat familiar with the concept of email marketing.

But just to avoid any potential confusion, let’s start with a definition: Email marketing is a type of direct marketing that uses customized emails to inform customers and potential customers about your product or services.

Why Should You Use Email Marketing?

If the eye-popping $36:1 ROI stat wasn’t enough to convince you to take the plunge, here are some other key reasons you should use email marketing to promote your business:

  • Email marketing drives traffic to your website, blog, social media account, or anywhere else you direct it.
  • It allows you to build a stronger relationship with your targets via personalization and auto-triggered campaigns.
  • You can segment your audience to target highly specific demographics, so you’re sending messages to the people they will resonate with most.
  • Email marketing is one of the easiest platforms to version test on, so you can determine exactly what subject lines and calls-to-action (CTAs) work best.

Even better, you own your email campaigns entirely.

With email, you own your marketing list and you can target your leads however you like (so long as you stay compliant with CAN-SPAM laws).

There is no question that you should be using email marketing as part of your overall marketing outreach strategy.

Now let’s look at some of the different ways you can do that.

What Are The Types Of Email Marketing?

For every stage of the sales funnel, there’s a corresponding type of email marketing. Here are some of the different types you can use to engage your audience and generate results.

Promotional Emails

When you think about email marketing, these types of messages are probably what you think of.

Used to promote sales, special offers, product releases, events, and more, these are usually one of the least personalized types of emails and tend to go out to a large list.

Usually, promotional campaigns consist of anywhere from 3 to 10 emails sent over a specified time frame. They have a clear CTA that encourages the recipient to take the next step of visiting your site, booking an appointment, or making a purchase.

Informational Emails

This type of email includes company announcements as well as weekly/monthly/quarterly newsletters.

They may include information about new products, company achievements, customer reviews, or blog posts.

The CTA is usually to visit your website or blog to learn more about what’s happening.

Welcome Emails

Sent to new customers or people who have filled out a form on your website, welcome emails encourage recipients to learn more about your company or offering.

These commonly include trial offers, requests to book a demo, or other offerings a new customer will find valuable.

Nurturing Emails

Any salesperson will tell you the importance of creating multiple touchpoints with potential customers.

Lead nurturing emails focus on building interest in people who are drawn to a particular offering.

The goal of these messages is to push them to the consideration stage of the buying journey.

Re-engagement Emails

Nurturing emails’ slightly more aggressive brother, re-engagement emails are used to warm up customers who haven’t been active lately.

These tend to be more personalized, as you’ll want to show the subscriber that you know and understand the challenges they’re facing.

Survey/Review Emails

User generated content (UGC) lends your brand an authenticity you simply can’t achieve on your own.

One of the best ways to generate this is via emails soliciting feedback from your customers.

This type of email also gives you insights into your brand’s relative strengths and weaknesses, so you can improve your offerings.

There are a number of other types of emails you can use as part of your marketing efforts, including seasonal emails designed to capitalize on holidays or events, confirmation emails to reassure recipients their purchase was completed or their information received, and co-marketing emails that are sent with a partner company.

In fact, it’s email marketing’s sheer versatility that makes it the cornerstone of any successful marketing strategy. You merely need to decide what you hope to accomplish, then create your campaign around it.

Now, let’s take a closer look at creating and managing your own email marketing.

How Do You Perform Email Marketing?

Step 1: Establish Your Goals

The section above should have made it clear that the type of email campaign you’ll run will depend on what you’re hoping to accomplish. Trying to do everything with one email will lead to confused recipients and a watered-down CTA.

Set one goal for your campaign, and make sure every email in the series works toward it.

Step 2: Build Your List

Now it’s time to determine who will be on the receiving end of your campaign. You do this by building your email marketing list – a process you can approach from several directions.

The most basic way to build an email list is by simply importing a list of your contacts into your chosen email marketing platform (more on that later).

One caveat: Before you add anyone to your list, make sure they have opted into receiving emails from you – otherwise you’ll run afoul of the CAN-SPAM Act guidelines mentioned above.

Other options for building a list from scratch via a lead generation campaign: provide potential customers with discounts, compelling content, or something else of value and make it easy for them to subscribe and you’ll generate high-quality leads.

Some marketers buy or rent email lists, but in general, this isn’t an effective way to perform email marketing.

The primary reason you don’t want to do this is because of lead quality. You’re not going after people who are interested in your brand but instead are blindly targeting leads of questionable quality with emails they haven’t opted in to.

In addition to violating consent laws, which could potentially hurt your IP reputation and email deliverability, you risk annoying your targets instead of encouraging them to try your offering.

Step 3: Create Your Email Campaign

Now that you know who you’re targeting and what you’re hoping to achieve, it’s time to build your campaign.

Email marketing tools like HubSpot, Constant Contact, and Mailchimp include drag-and-drop templates you can employ to create well-designed and effective email campaigns.

We’ll dive deeper into these platforms a bit later, but now, let’s talk about some fundamentals and best practices to help you get the best results:

  • Make your emails easy to read – No one wants to read a long wall of text. Structure your emails using strategically placed headers and bulleted lists for easy scanning.
  • Use images – Ideally, you want your emails to capture the reader’s eye and attention. Visuals are a great way to do this.
  • Write a compelling subject line – The best-written email in the world is useless if no one opens it. That makes a compelling, intriguing subject line paramount. Don’t be afraid to try different iterations, just be sure to keep it short.
  • Add personalization – Emails that are targeted to a specific person, including addressing them by name, are more likely to generate responses. Your email marketing platform should allow you to do this with relative ease.
  • Make conversion easy – If you want click-throughs, you need to make it easy for readers. Make sure your CTA is prominent and clear.
  • Consider your timing – As with most types of marketing, email campaigns tend to perform better when they’re properly timed. This could mean a specific time of day that generates more opens, a time of the week when purchases are more likely, or even a time of year when your content is most relevant. This will probably require some experimentation.

Step 4: Measure Your Results

You’re not going to get your email campaigns right the first time. Or the second. Or the fifth. In fact, there’s really no endpoint; even the best campaigns can be optimized to generate better results.

To track how yours are performing, you’ll want to use the reports section of your email marketing platform. This will help you understand how people are interacting with your campaigns.

Use A/B testing to drill down into what’s working best.

Generally, you’ll want to look at key metrics like:

  • Open rate and unique opens.
  • Click-through rate.
  • Shares.
  • Unsubscribe rate.
  • Spam complaints.
  • Bounces (the number of addresses your email couldn’t be delivered to).

Choosing An Email Marketing Platform

Manually sending out emails is fine if you’re only targeting three or four people. But if you’re trying to communicate with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of targets, you’re going to need some help.

But there are currently hundreds of email marketing platform on the market. How do you choose the right one for your unique needs?

Should you just go with one of the big names like HubSpot,  Klaviyo, or Mailjet? How do you know which one is right for you?

While it may initially feel overwhelming, by answering a few questions you can narrow down your options considerably.

The very first thing you need to determine is your budget. If you’re running a small business, the amount you’re willing to spend on an email service platform is probably considerably less than an enterprise-level company.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll probably find that a lower-priced version of a platform like Sendinblue or Constant Contact provides you with all the functionality you need.

Larger companies with bigger marketing budgets may wish to go with an email marketing platform that provides higher levels of automation, more in-depth data analysis and is easier to use. In this case, you may prefer to go with a platform like Mailchimp or Salesforce’s Pardot.

The good thing is that most of these email service providers offered tiered pricing, so smaller businesses can opt for more inexpensive (or even free) versions that offer less functionality at a lower price.

The next thing to consider is the type of email you want to send.

If your primary send will be newsletters, a platform like SubStack is a great choice. If you’re planning on sending transactional emails, you may want to check out Netcore Email API or GetResponse.

For those of you planning on sending a variety of marketing emails, your best choice may be an option that covers multiple email types like ConvertKit or an omnichannel marketing tool like Iterable.

You can narrow down your options by determining your must-have features and internal capabilities.

Some things you’ll want to consider include:

  • The size of your lists.
  • Your technical skill level.
  • Your HTML editing requirements.
  • Template variety.
  • Your need for responses/workflows.
  • A/B testing needs.
  • Industry-specific features.

While there is significant overlap in functionality between email marketing platforms, each has some variation in capabilities.

Ideally, you want something that will integrate with your other marketing tools to help take the guesswork out of the equation.

You should request demos and trials of your finalists to find which is best for your needs. If you’re working with a team, be sure to loop them in and get their feedback.

Tips For Maximizing Your Results

Email marketing is a powerful tool for any business. But there’s both science and art to it.

Here are some additional tips to help you get the most from your campaigns:

  • Avoid being marked as spam – According to HubSpot, there are 394 words and phrases that can identify your email as junk mail. These include “free,” “lowest price,” “no catch” and “all new.” You should avoid these whenever possible. To be doubly safe, have your recipients add you to their safe senders list.
  • Run integrated campaigns – Email marketing serves to amplify the power of other marketing channels. If you’re running sales or promotions, you should include an email aspect.
  • Clean up your list regularly – Keep your email database up to date to ensure deliverability and higher engagement. If a subscriber hasn’t responded to your re-engagement efforts after six months, it’s probably safe to scrub them from your list.
  • Harness the power of automation – Autoresponders are a great way to follow up with customers and subscribers, or strategically target someone after a certain event or action. Learn how to set this up on your email marketing platform and it will save you lots of time while boosting returns.

Email Marketing Is A Powerful Tool

There’s a reason why email marketing is prevalent in the modern world – it works.

And that means you should be using it to promote your brand and drive sales.

Hopefully, by this point, you have a good idea of not only what email marketing can do for you, but how it works, and how to create and optimize your own campaigns.

There’s really no better way to connect with our audience and convey the value of your brand.

Now get to work – you have customers to attract.

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