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What is a Sales Funnel and Why Should Content Creators Care?

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“What the heck is a sales funnel?”

I remember that thought going through my mind when I first started to get serious about my blogging. I forget where I first saw the term, but I certainly didn’t know the definition of sales funnel or why it mattered to me as a blogger.

More and more, I saw it, though. And not just for bloggers. It seemed like everyone was talking about it – podcasters, business owners, video producers – pretty much everyone creating content online.

So I decided to get to the bottom of it. What is a sales funnel? And since understanding this concept, I’ve been able to take my online content to another level. So today, I wanted to do a little 101 lesson for anyone out there who doesn’t know what a sales funnel is or doesn’t think it applies to them. I assure you, it matters, even if you don’t think you work in sales!

A sales funnel can be illustrated with this simple graphic:

sales funnel So let’s say you’re working in a traditional sales setting. The first level, the wide pool, might be 1,000 names and numbers you’re given to cold call. Of that wide pool, most people hang up on your or say they aren’t interested, but maybe 10% or 100 people show some interest. They’re in that second level. Once you explain your product more, maybe 10% of those, or 10 people, are willing to come into your office to discuss more – they move to the “very interested” level. And over those 10 people, maybe 1 person actually takes action and buys the product.

The theory is that the more people you put into the top of the funnel, the more people who will come out the other side having taken action. If 1,000 cold calls = 1 sale, I need to call 10,000 people every month to make a quota of 10 sales.

The reason to look at a sales funnel is so you can make improvements. 10,000 people might be WAY too many people for me to call every month. So, to meet my quota, maybe I need to improve my pitch so that instead of 10 people being interested in coming into my office, 50 people are interested. If I still make sales to 10% of them, that means 1,000 cold calls is worth 5 sales instead of 1, so I only have to call 2,000 people every month to meet my quota.

Or, looking at the sales funnel, I might determine that I need another step or level. Maybe instead of inviting people to the office as the next step, I ask if I can send them more info in the mail as the next step, and from there I follow up with the ask to come into the office to hear about the service or product.

But Why Should You Care?

As a content creator, you may or may not be selling a product/service. But you do have an end goal, an action you want your audience members to take. When someone lands on your website, what is it that you most want them to do.

Let’s say that you have an ebook to sell. Someone who comes to your site for the first time probably isn’t going to buy it right off the bat, unless they had a strong word-of-moth recommendation. Instead, you have to move them down that sales funnel. This is what it might look like for you:

sales funnel 2 Your funnel might have more steps. But think about what moves a person from level one, where they’re visiting your site for the first time, to the final level, where they’re buying your ebook. Then look at the conversation rate of each step. How can you boost the percentage of people who move down the funnel, so more people are making it to the end of the line? (This is an awesome guest post on proven techniques for boosting your conversation rate.) Or what can you do to add more steps? If you’re jumping right from reading posts to trying to sell your ebook, people might not respond as well because that’s a big action to take. But if you’re asking for something smaller, like signing up for a mailing list, more people might be inclined to move to the next level.

Like I said, this works even if you don’t have a product to sell. For example, let’s say that your goal is to get as much traffic as possible because you make money through sponsored posts, and the more traffic you have, the more sponsors will be willing to pay for these posts. In this case, your end goal might be for people to share your posts on social networks. So, your funnel might look like this:

sales funnel 3 The more people you get to each level, the more people who will come out the other end of the funnel sharing your content. So maybe you need to start at the top can think about ways to get more people to see you links. Or maybe you need to work on your headlines so that more people who see the links move to the next level and click.

You can create a sales funnel for ANY goal you might have. Just think about the action you’d most like new visitors to take, then write out the steps someone would take to get there. Go back and analyze your conversion for each step to see where you can improve.

Now that you understand what a sales funnel is, will you start using it? Leave a comment to tell us your plans (or what you’re already doing to funnel people to your final goal)!

Mark Malkoff Skypes with Skypes with People in 160+ Countries [Video]

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Skype turned ten this year, and to celebrate, one of our favorite speakers, Mark Malkoff, used Skype to talk to people in 162 countries from around the world. He “high-fived” a girl from the Bahamas. He got yelled at by a a guy in Indonesia for accidentally calling at 2 AM. He even talked to a tour guide in North Korea who was at a football (soccer) match in Kim Il-Sung Stadium.

What I like about this project is that it is a reminder just how small the world is and how new media platforms like Skype are changing world. And I love what Mark had to say about the project: “Though the world is separated by geography and cultural differences, this project illustrates that smiles and love are universal.”

The Friends Approach to Creating Characters for Your Web Series

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central perk So no one told you life was gonna be this way…

Every web series needs a great cast of characters. But developing believable, interesting characters is easier said than done. It’s the same across all fictional mediums, no matter why you’re writing characters. The process isn’t easy.

For character creation inspiration, I like to turn to one of my favorite television shows of all time: Friends

Web Series Characters: Start with a Trope

At first glance, the characters in Friends are extremely stereotypical and one-dimensional. For those of you who haven’t watched the show, it follows the lives of six friends living in Manhattan. Joey is the hot, stupid one. Rachel is the preppy cheerleader type. Ross is the nerd. Chandler is the class clown. Monica is the motherly, neurotic one. Phoebe is the free spirit.

Stock characters aren’t bad. They’re a starting point.

When you start by given your characters recognizable characteristics, you make it easier for the viewer to relate to them. At one point or another, we’ve all met a Phoebe. We’ve all gone to high school with a Rachel. We’ve dated a Joey and felt like a Ross. When a character is unfamiliar to us, we can’t relate, and thus, it is hard to get sucked into the story.

Starting with a cast of stock characters also allows you to ensure that your ensemble is balanced. Too many jokers leaves you no straight man to make the joke work. Too many brains can leave you without charm in the dialogue. Too many flighty characters leads to a script that is unfocused and a storyline that is confusing.

Think about your own group of friends. Everyone has a role, even if you are like-minded. That bit of variety is what helps you work as a group of friends, complementing one another instead of competing against one another.

Web Series Character Development: Adding the Layers

What you may fail to realize if you never watched more than an episode or two of Friends is that the six main characters are extremely developed. That’s part of the reason why the show worked so well. On the surface, they were caricatures, but each of the friends had a back story, deep motivations, weaknesses, flaws, and secrets (see my post about creating strong characters with secrets here). We saw them get hurt and we celebrated their triumphs.

Take Rachel, for example. She starts in the series as the typical “popular girl.” She’s the cute waitress who loves to shop and goes out on a million dates. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll suddenly find her insecurities about herself, her mixed feelings about relationships (especially with Ross), and her drive to be successful in her career. Her character can be funny, emotional, and caring, while still being the popular girl who was prom queen in high school.

When writing a web series, you have a unique challenge: making us understand a character’s layers in a limited time. Not every web series has short episodes, but even if you go for a longer episode length, the attention span of an Internet audience is extremely short. If they don’t see character development fairly quickly, they’ll be on to the next show, lickity-split.

Stock characteristics might make it easy for viewers to relate to a character, but layers make he character interesting. What can you do, from the very first scene a new character is introduced, to begin adding layers?

 Relationships Define Your Web Series Characters

What I like most about Friends is that this is truly a show about relationships. Rarely do we see characters alone or even in a scene where one of the other main characters isn’t also present. These relationships help to shape who the characters become.

Think of your character development process like the process of carving a marble statue. While you might be able to finish it 99% of the way, the relationships between characters are what smooth the edges and refine the statue. Have you ever gone back to re-watch a series you really like? Notice how the characters in the first episodes seem flat? That’s often because no relationships were developed yet. Every interaction a character has with another character adds a little something more to the story.

Again, as a web series writer, you have a unique challenge: building these relationships quickly before your viewers lose interest. So, make each interaction count. Be consistent with how your characters treat one another, always thinking about motivation. If Character A is nice to Character B, ask yourself why. By understanding the motivation behind relationships, it is easier to build relationships because your characters faster.

I personally believe that Friends is a unique example of writers hitting a sweet spot with characters. Other shows have tried to emulate this success (How I Met Your Mother is a prime example), and while I think some have succeeded, Friends is still my favorite example of strong character creation and development.

Image credit: Stuart Sevastos via Wikimedia Commons

The Chromecast Revolution: Web TV’s Move Toward Mainstream

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chromecast At first, blogging was a brand new concept, but today, everyone and their grandmother has one, and most successful businesses use them as marketing tools. Then, podcasting was the new kid on the block, but a 2012 report shows that “as many as 40% percent of Americans now listen to audio on digital devices, and that is projected to double by 2015, while interest in traditional radio—even the HD option—is on the decline.”

Now, it is Web TV’s turn. The train is moving full steam ahead with companies like Microsoft catering to viewers with their latest gaming console, smart TVs being set up for watching video online, and companies like Netflix developing original online-only series like the latest season of Arrested Development and the extremely successful Orange is the New Black.

This revolution is perhaps defined by a new device called Chromecast, which is available from Google.

Chromecast: Web TV with Ease

One of the biggest problems with Web TV has always been the inconvenient nature of the Internet for viewing anything longer than a minute-long video. You can’t really enjoy a web series with your family huddled around a laptop or an iPad. Viewing on your television is possible, but only with the right devices, which are typically either expensive (like a gaming console) or inconvenient (like a cable you run from your computer to your TV).

Chromecast changes that. It costs just $35 and once you plug it into your TV’s HDMI port, you can send (“cast”) media directly from YouTube, Netflix, and the Google Play store from any Android or iOS device. Or, just pull up Chrome on your computer and cast anything in your browser window. While there are few apps with a cast button currently, the browser option means you can watch just about anything on your TV, using your computer as the remote controller.

Accessibility is an important step in making anything mainstream. With Chromecast and other devices like it that I’m store will be hitting in the market in the next few years, web series can compete with television shows.

Making Web Series More Social

Television has always been a social activity. You sit around the TV with your family to watch the latest episode of your favorite show, then you talk about it with your friends the next day. With the rise of social media, television has become even more social, especially with networks like Get Glue, which cater to fans who want to talk about specific shows.

Web series take this to a new level, since they live online, but the traditional social part, where watching episodes is an event, has always been missing, since it wasn’t convenient to to watch on a larger screen. So, although you could enjoy chatting online about your favorite shows, watching web series was more of a solo activity. With that changing, it is easier for web series to be more social in person, not just online.

With devices like Chromecast, will web series be pushed into the mainstream just like blogging and podcasting? The jury is out, but I think this is a major step in the right direction.

9 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Video Podcasting

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Video Podcasting

Lots of people are blogging. More and more people are podcasting. But video? There are still relatively few people consistently producing quality video content. If you’re already a podcaster or thinking about starting a podcast, consider a video element. Video podcasting isn’t much different from audio podcasting, and adding this visual element can open you to a world of new listeners.

We covered video podcasting in the past on this blog after Perry Lawrence presented a session on this topic at one of our past events. But for even more knowledge, check out what the brilliant bloggers (and podcasters) below have to say about video podcasting.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

ryan matthew Five Tips for Professional Video Podcasting by Ryan Matthew Pierson

I like this post because it is a great overview of video podcasting for beginners, and also includes some tips for more experienced podcasters.

He writes, “After seeing several professional YouTube talents hit the big time, you may have considered creating your own video podcast (or vlog) in an effort to stake your own claim in the world of Internet television. You may have a brilliant concept and have tried your hand at shooting video and editing. You’re pretty set, right?” Ryan then goes on to cover tips you may not have previously considered, such has working with a co-host and hiring an editor.

Check out the post, then don’t forget to follow Ryan on Twitter at @FrugalGeek.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about video podcasting? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Writing Persuasive Content

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

How to Promote Your Web Series with a Blog

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promote your web series

Looking for new ways to promote your web series? A blog is one of your best options. Businesses use blogs as part of a larger content marketing strategy. This means that the blog itself doesn’t make money, but it brings traffic to a website so people become aware of what you’re promoting. There’s no reason you can’t do this for your web series.

Blogs are great for promotion because:

  1. They’re very inexpensive to start and maintain.
  2. Google and other search engines love regularly-updated blogs.
  3. Some of your fans may prefer subscribing to your blog over following your social accounts.

So once you’ve decided that it’s time to start a blog…how do you do it? And how do you make a blog manageable for you and your team? Here are a few tips:

Tip #1: Decide quickly what kind of content you want to have on your blog.

Your blog should be more than just posts containing embedded videos every time a new episode comes out. You can certainly to that, but your blog should have other posts as well. Here are some of the things you might want to consider having on your web series’ blog:

  • Pictures and backstage stories about your filming
  • Special content (like bloopers)
  • Interviews with the cast
  • Educational information about how to film a web series
  • Journal-like posts written by your chracters
  • Announcements (news about your web series, contests, etc.)
  • Transcripts of your show

Not every blog has to have all of these things. From the start, decide what you want to share on your blog and create a content schedule so you know when the blog is getting updated.

Tip #2: Have a plan for management.

If you’re on a shoestring budget, you might not have the cash on hand to pay a blogger to manage your blog. That’s okay. You and your team can run the blog if you work together, even if you are beginners. The key is to have a plan for updating the blog. Who will be in charge of writing posts? Who will be in change of updating posts when you have a new episode coming out? Who will be in charge of promoting the posts with your social accounts? Who will be in charge of responding to comments? Who will be in charge of back-end work, like updating your platform or installing new plugins?

The best choice is typically to spread the work across several people. Hold everyone accountable so each task gets done on time and the blog runs like clockwork. If you work as a team, it doesn’t add much work per week to your schedule.

Tip #3: Use your blog to connect with fans.

You probably already hear from fans directly on your videos, but on your blog you have a little more control of the conversation. It’s a great place to connect with your biggest fans through comments, and you can even consider starting a forum to go along with your blog. You blog is also a great place to poll your community to get their opinion.

Don’t start a blog if you aren’t going to update it regularly. No blog is better than a dead blog. But if you’re looking for new avenues of promoting your web series, definitely consider this option. It’s inexpensive and, with a little work, can be extremely effective for building buzz about your show.

Secrets to Web Series Success from Successful Producers [Video]

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At the web series festival “HollyWeb 2013,” Web Series Channel took to the red carpet to ask successful producers, creators, and actors what it takes to have success in the web series world. Check out their advice:

Some highlights:

“The secret behind a successful web series is marketing it correctly. Seriously. You have to have all of the major things in order to make it look good, but beyond that, if you’re not spending any money advertising it on Facebook or anywhere else, nobody’s going to see it. So really get out there. Push it. Do an hour worth of social media a day and you can really get it going.”

“You know, a lot of people have said, I think it starts with story. It’s nice to have a lot of dollars for production value, but if you have an engaging story, interesting characters, you know, you’ll find your fans and they will follow you to the end.”

“If you make something that you would want to watch, you’re on the good path. Don’t worry about what you think people want to watch, as long as you make something you want to watch.”

“What’s the secret? Hard work.”

Check out the full video for even more great web series advice.

What Arrested Development’s Return Means for the Web TV Community

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arrested development Recently, Arrested Development returned to the air after seven years of wearing the all-too-common “cult classic that was cancelled by Fox” badge. This riches-to-rags story follows the fictional Bluth family and the cast includes notables such as Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Portia de Rossi.

What’s notable about this release, however, is not only did the show come back with its original cast after being cancelled, but also that it was relaunched on Netflix. The streaming and DVD rental service licensed the rights to a fourth season for Arrested Development as part of their new push to include original programming as part of their offerings.

Like other Netflix-only series that were recently released, Arrested Development was offered to views in its entirety when launched. Viewers can binge-watch the entire season in one sitting or choose to spread out the episodes over time based on their own schedule. So far, fans are underwhelmed. Netflix’s stock has dropped, and critics have given the season mixed reviews.

But perhaps more importantly than the success of this one series is the notion that Netflix is changing how consumers think about TV, which has a ripple effect across all forms of entertainment. Certainly, this has implications for the Web TV community.

Thinking About Entertainment Advertising Differently

The traditional way of monetizing entertainment (specially anything episodic) is to have commercials throughout. Yes, some shows also do product placement and other forms of monetization, but commercials are the bread and butter.

With a show like Arrested Development steaming on Netflix, however, you don’t have those traditional commercial breaks. Let’s be honest, ever since the introduction of DVRs, commercials haven’t been reaching as many people anyway. But Netflix’s original program forces advertisers to think outside the box.

This is great news for web series producers. Some shows have “commercial breaks,” but online, people aren’t as tolerant of any kind of disruption in entertainment. So, producers have had to be creative with monetization – and ad companies aren’t always ready for that kind of thinking.

If more big-name shows like Arrested Development force advertisers to think outside the box, they may also be open to creative deals with others in the web TV community.

I Want What I Want and I Want it Now

One of the major criticisms I’ve seen about what Netflix is doing is that it takes the conversation out of television when entire series are presented at once. And it is true that after each episode of a popular TV show, the web is buzzing with fans talking about it on Twitter, Facebook, and platforms like GetGlue. The next day, the same is true at the water cooler at work. People are talking about the latest episode and anticipating next week’s developments.

You just don’t get this with Netflix. Some rabid fans of a popular series will watch over the course of a day or two, depending on how many episode are in the series and how long each episode lasts. A good majority will finish in the first week or two, and even more in the first few months. But everyone is on their own schedule. Fans might even refrain from talking about the series at all due to worries about spoilers.

But on the other side, people have an increasing “I want what I want and I want it now” type of attitude about all things. Allowing the consumer to dictate the speed at which a show’s series is watched plays into this hand.

This also allows more people to become fans. I don’t know about you, but I often watch the first episode or two of a series, then forget it’s on. If my DVR is full, I might never watch it again, even though I liked what I saw originally. This kind of “all at once” presentation avoid the problem of people forgetting about a show between weeks, so more fans may develop over time.

Is it the right choice? I’m not sure. But if you’re a web series producer, it’s a question you should be considering. Arrested Development has such a big built-in fan base that it’s a great case study for presentation methods.

Bigger Deals for Smaller Shows?

As Netflix continues to experiment with presenting shows in a non-traditional way, you can bet that everyone will be watching. Could this be the start of a wave of bigger deals for smaller shows?

Or, will it mean that big-budgets shows will invade the web space?

Or maybe a combination of both?

If you produce web series, be part of the conversation instead of just allowing it to happen around you. The silver screen entertainment world is changing drastically, so now’s the time to try new techniques for presenting your content and thinking outside the box when trying to attract both viewers and advertisers.

What do you think launches like Arrested Development mean for the web TV world? Leave a comment below.

Image: Netflix.com

25 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Vine

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Vine

Vine is the hottest new kid on the block, and although people are still a little tentative about using anything that involved video, this is really helping to introduce a new medium to people in the least intimidating way possible. The thought of creating a 10-minute video is terrifying to a lot of people. A 6-second video? Well, that’s not so bad.

Using Vine can be fun, but it can also be a promotional tool for your brand or content. So this week’s Brilliant Bloggers is filled with advice on making the most of this new platform.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

craig fifield Vine App: The Ultimate Guide to More Likes and Followers by Craig Fifield

Vine is still pretty new, so if you haven’t checked out this platform yet, don’t worry: you aren’t alone. That’s why I love this post from Craig Fifield at Social Media Today. It’s everything you need to know to get started plus lots of tips for users of all experience levels. This is an especially helpful post if you are using (or thinking about using) Vine for your small business, your blog, or something else you’re trying to promote, rather than just for fun.

After you check it out on the post, you can also follow Craig on Twitter at @craigfifield.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about Vine? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Writing Viral Posts

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

How to Track Conversions from YouTube Viewers [Video]

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YouTube Partners can now link out to other sites within their video annotations, which can be a great way to drive new readers to a blog, ecommerce site, landing page, etc. You can also, of course, add links to your description and channel page. Very few people are creating video content consistently, so you have the opportunity to really stand out in your niche if you create videos.

But traffic (from YouTube or otherwise) is nothing if that traffic doesn’t convert. Once someone comes to your website, are they actually performing the action that you want them to perform? Are they buying your product? Or signing up for your mailing list?

In this video, Ileane Smith walks you through exactly how to set up a Google Analytics goal and track conversions. If you’re new to Google Analytics, don’t worry; she really breaks it down so you can easily understand how to track conversions. Check it out:

I loves the goals feature for Google Analytics for conversion tracking, because it helps me understand the best source of traffic according to my goal. Sometimes, raw numbers don’t tell the entire story.

Have you set up goals to track conversions?

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