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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)!

How to Improve Your Site Conversion: 10 Data Proven Tips

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“Conversion” – it sounds like such a mysterious thing to newer website owners. You want more of your site visitors to buy your product. Those who are already buying, you want them to come back, buy again, and spend more while they are at your site.

However, the sheer number of elements that go into creating good conversion rates can seem overwhelming at first. Should you look at your call-to-action buttons? Do you need a better product description? Fortunately, there are companies that have big marketing budgets, or sometimes small ones but a lot of time to experiment, who have studied what works best to improve site conversion. By studying the techniques these companies have used successfully, you can gain some insider tips that will help improve conversion on your site.

NMX testimonials 1. Include Customer Testimonials

Adding customer testimonials tells your site visitors that you can be trusted because others have been happy with your product. WikiJob, a graduate jobs website in the UK and one of the largest, was able to increase sales by 34% simply by adding an optimized customer testimonial. You will want to take three steps to not only add testimonials, but ones that will increase your conversion rates.

  1. Collect customer testimonials. The easiest way to do this is to provide a link the customer can click on, e-mail current customers, and simply ask for testimonials.
  2. Use the testimonials on your site. Have a separate page, sprinkle them throughout your text, put them in an image box and include on your landing page, etc.
  3. A/B test the statements by optimizing them for SEO, increasing the size of the text, trying different placements, etc. and see which combination works best to increase your income.

The  co-founder of WikiJob, Chris Muktar, shared with Visual Website Optimizer how they tested their theory. They had two main goals. First, they wanted to get people to click through to PayPal, but their final goal was to convert that click into the customer purchasing the product. They tried their theory on a single landing page at first. They even experimented with placement, but the only thing that made a difference was upfront, sincere testimonials on the landing page.

2. Offer Trust Signals

Imagine for a moment that you are a visitor to a website for the first time. The product looks interesting, but you don’t know the person running it or anything about the company. Can you even trust them to deliver what you pay for? How do you know they will offer good customer service if you’re not happy with your purchase?

You can allay a lot of fears your customers have by offering trust signals. Offer a 30-day full refund, returns without questions, double money back guarantee (careful with this one), or even free shipping to help entice those new customers to trust you. Even the USPS offers a money-back guarantee on their Express Mail services.

3. Create Closed Checkouts

When you study your website statistics, do you notice that a lot of your customers go to the ordering page but don’t follow through with the order? Perhaps the customer is getting distracted. People are crazy busy these days. There are dozens of distractions for the average person. From children needing help with homework, to television, to a text message coming through to other websites and even, at times, your own website’s sidebars.

Closed checkouts remove all distractions in the checkout process. Amazon is a perfect example of a closed checkout that has translated into a massive sales machine. Once you arrive at your shopping cart, it is not easy to suddenly browse elsewhere. Instead, Amazon funnels the customer through the system, gathering payment information, shipping and suggesting additional products others have purchased. To model Amazon’s method:

  • Remove links that will take the customer away from the checkout process
  • Try to stick with simple pages without a lot of clutter, such as multimedia or even a lot of images
  • Create a clear process where the customer confirms the order, adds payment info, adds shipping and sees one clear button to click to complete the sale.

4. Add Special Effects

Let’s go back to your landing page for a minute. Special effects can drive the traffic that hits your site to the page you want it on, such as the ordering page, or a special offer. The goal is to make it easy for the site visitor to navigate to the page you want him on.

  • Hello Bar is a neat little tool which allows you to place a bar on your page that has text and is clickable. You can make it a bright red, for example, so it stands out and the customer will see the bar and may click on it. Be clear in the text as far as where the customer will go. For example, put the words “more information on plans and pricing” in your bar.
  • nRelate Flyout is a plugin that works with WordPress to insert a flyout box on your page similar to what is used at New York Times or Huffington Post. This catches the reader’s eye. Offer a tidbit, such as “save 34% on heating costs this winter with our energy efficiency plan” and your visitors may just go to your product page to learn more.

5. Watch Industry Trends

Check trends in your industry, watch what is trending on Google and Twitter, keep an eye on your friend’s Facebook pages and even tune in to the national news. A perfect example of how a company went with trending news and revamped their site to increase conversion happened when Michael Jackson passed away. According to Andrew Girdwood, it was within two hours if the King of Pop’s death that Amazon edited their MP3 homepage to feature Michael Jackson songs.

Editor’s note: of course, always be sensitive to current events, especially tragedies. There’s nothing worse than a company trying to profit off of sad news, like a shooting.

6. Check Site Usability

All the site traffic on the Internet won’t do you a bit of good if your site is hard to use. Bad navigation, home page clutter, lengthy pages, or poor layout will all hurt you with site visitors. If your site is slow to load, visitors will leave and move on to the next site that loads more quickly. Here are some things you can do today to ensure your home page and landing pages are easier to read in digital format:

  • audible Create a page layout that is balanced. If you’re not sure, ask a graphic designer or web designer friend to help. Artists usually have a natural eye for balance as well.
  • Use headers, subheaders and bullet points to break up the text and make it easy to skim.
  • Make sure there is white space between paragraphs and make your paragraphs shorter.
  • Make sure important navigation links are easy to find.

Audible.com is a good example of a usable site. The layout is easy to read and the text stands out against the white background. The top of the home landing page states two options very clearly: “How It Works” and “About Membership”. This is the information a visitor needs to decide whether or not Audible is right for him. Audible very effectively funnels the first-time visitor to one of these two pages and then offers a free book so you can try it out.

7. Have Separate Landing Pages

Nearly every business out there has more than one type of customer. If you sell pet rocks, for example, you might have a very young audience made up of children ordering pet rocks with their birthday money and an older audience ordering pet rocks as gifts. You may also sell different types of pet rocks, such as mini pet rocks and boulders. It is important to have different landing pages for different targeted audiences. You can more easily track how successful a particular site conversion tactic is with that product or audience.

Voices.com was able to improve their conversion rate by more than 200%. Through customer surveys and analytics, they determined that they had two main types of customers. Their customers were either voice over artists or companies seeking such artists. They created two separate funnels, one for each customer type.

8. Improve Headlines

The headline is the first impression the reader has of your website. Perhaps it is while she is browsing on a search engine, or maybe it is when a friend shares an article on a social media site. Whatever the case, you have a chance to make her want to read more or to yawn and walk away.

You can easily keep her on your site and through your content convert her into a customer by:

  • Improving your hook
  • Creating a set of templates that are proven effective formulas for headlines

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Read the Headlines Writing Guides at Web Hosting Secrets Revealed for 35 sample headlines and how to create your own.

# 9: Add Videos

Would your product be presented better with a video? In one case study, jewelry sales rose by an impressive 247% when videos of the product were added. A few things to keep in mind based on this case study:

  • Feature one product at a time so you can easily enable A/B testing for how successful that video is for that product.
  • Keep in mind that some visitors will have slower load times and cover the information in text in case they have multimedia disabled.

10. Keep It Short

The average Internet browser spends around 4 seconds looking over a page before deciding to move on. This could be due to the increased use of smart phones and tablets to access the Internet, but whatever the cause, you have a very short amount of time to hook that reader and get her interested in your product.

Remember that less is more. Let’s look at AssessmentDay’s success with cutting some of the elements on a landing page. The company had a landing page with a call-to-action button, a FAQs section about what type of assessment tests they offer, screenshots of their software in action and some headlines to tie it all together. They simply removed the screenshots, a very easy change, and their A/B test results showed a 62% change. Shorter landing pages are better for conversion rates.

Convert Visitors into Customers

If anything, these case studies prove that small changes can make a big difference. Removing a few graphics, adding a guarantee, showing customers that others love your product call all work to increase conversion. Smart conversion tactics equals success.

The Single Most Important Step to Getting Good Conversion from your Visitors

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I have for the past couple of months been posting here about an ongoing MBA class on content marketing called Marketing with Social Media. The class is being taught by me, Bill Belew, at a university in San Jose (Yes, I know the way).

I don’t know of anybody who has been able to gather a lot (73 MBA students) of bloggers and put them in a controlled setting (controlled inasmuch as they do what I tell them to, which they don’t always) in an academic environment. The students pass or fail based on whether they do the work or not. It is an international university and many of the students’ immigration status is dependent on their final grade. In other words, they are motivated. If they fail, they literally get deported.

The class is a marketing class. The end result of the blogging, aka content marketing, aka inbound marketing is not just traffic. It’s conversions. Business. Clients. Paying customers or in some cases, leads are just enough.

conversion The Single Most Important Step to Getting Good Conversion From Your Visitors

Not the only step mind you. But the most important step.

By chance–I didn’t plan it this way–this past week I attended a Conversion Conference in San Francisco, right up the street from me. We get a lot of that sort of thing in my area. Search Engine Marketing, adTech and and and …

The Conversion Conference was all about, well, converting visitors to web sites to paying customers. Analyzing the people who show up at your site and how they got there from whence they came (I am reading a book that currently has me in the middle ages) and turning them into buyers. Finding the leak in the funnel. That sort of thing.

Before I tell you the first let me tell you the second most important thing I took away from the Conversion Conference: Most, can you say nearly all, marketers, market analysts don’t know what they are talking about.

One of the keynote speakers quite aggressively asked all the attendees by show of hands to answer three marketing questions. Is A better than B, type questions. Out of the 200+ people in the room, only 6, count ’em, got all three questions right. And, I was one of the 6! So, make that 5!

These are the, um, marketing analyst experts! And they barely get 1 or 2 out of 3 options right. Whoa!

But that’s not the most important.

First you have to get people to your web site in the first place. And get the right people to your web site. Driving traffic is no good. That equals pushing people to a site whether they might want to go there or not.

A good site pulls people in. In Europe it is called pull marketing versus push marketing. And pull wins hands down.

Social networking is push marketing.

Sites built on solid search engine  optimization principles is pull marketing. Search engine optimized is content that is appealing to real people (first) and search engines (second) but definitely to both.

My students have been working the SEO principles of good titling, images, captions and descriptions, plus linking and so on.

After 8 weeks, three of them are already over 10,000 page views! And the top 10 students are averaging over 5,000 page views … that have been generated by pull marketing. Guess who gets to stay in the US!

So, tell me … which converts better for you, people you asked to come to your site, people who have been sent to your site by hook or by crook or people who have come looking and found that you have what they want?

I know the answer. Do you?

30 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Landing Pages

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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: Landing Pages

A “landing page” is simply any page that promotes taking a certain action. As the name implies, this is where you want people to land when they click a certain link. You can also heavily optimize this page for search engines to try to get interested parties to land there. Sometimes, your landing page is a sales page, but more often, they promote downloading a free resource, signing up for a mailing list, etc. In other words, most landing pages are made with the goal of capturing leads.

Why have a landing page? Well, the hope is that anyone who comes to you landing page is extremely interested already. You aren’t trying to woo them with content marketing. Most landing pages do not have navigation or other links to get anywhere else on your site. The only thing for a person to do is take the action you want (like giving you their email address).

This week, I’ve compiled a collection of links giving you advice for creating a landing page. The most important piece of advice I can give you, however, is to TEST. Bloggers and marketers have lots of opinions on what works best, but you won’t know what works for your specific audience if you don’t systematically try new things and record the results.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

Cameron Chapman Beginner’s Guide to Landing Pages by Cameron Chapman 

Looking for a really great guide to landing pages? If you’re a beginner, look no farther than Cameron Chapman’s post for KISSmetrics. Cameron goes over everything you need to know about creating a landing page, from start to finish.

Do you have a clear goal? What are some common design mistakes? Is your copy optimized? You can leave all of this from Cameron’s post.

After reading this post, you can also read more from Cameron on her blog and follow her on Twitter at @cameron_chapman.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 3 Neuromarketing Considerations For Landing Page Optimization by Mona Elesseily (@webmona)
  2. 3 Reasons Why Landing Pages Are Important by George Passwater (@georgepasswater)
  3. 3 Ways to Create More Engaging Website Landing Pages by AJ Kumar (@ajkumar)
  4. 5 Tips for Landing Pages for Affiliates from Brian Massey by Kelly Clay (@kellyhclay)
  5. 7 Key Design Tips for High-Converting Landing Pages [+ Free Templates] by Anum Hussain (@anummedia)
  6. 7 Landing Page Tips to Boost Lead Conversions by Katrice Svanda (@katricesvanda)
  7. 7 Tips for Highly Effective Landing Pages by Subhash Chandra (@indiadesigners)
  8. 10 Expert Tips for Increasing Landing Page Conversions by Megan Leap (@MeganLeap)
  9. 11 Simple (But Critical) Tips for Creating Better Landing Pages by Pamela Vaughan (@pamelump)
  10. 13 Landing Page Tricks that Increase Conversion by Morgan Brown (@morganb)
  11. 84 Tips For A Killer Landing Page Design by Alhan Keser (@AlhanKeser)
  12. A “Formula” for Landing Page Optimisation by Dave Chaffey (@DaveChaffey)
  13. Creating Landing Pages That Convert by Adrian Drysdale
  14. Designing Landing Pages That Work by Karol K. (@carlosinho)
  15. Five Tips For Creating The Ultimate Landing Page by Greg Shuey (@shuey03)
  16. Four Expert Tips on Landing Page Design by Stacey Acevero (@sacevero)
  17. How to Craft Phenomenal SEO Landing Pages That Rank & Convert by Ken Lyons (@KenJLyons)
  18. How to Make a Landing Page That C.O.N.V.E.R.T.S. by Beth Morgan (@bethmorgan)
  19. How to Make Money With Facebook Landing Pages by Jim Belosic (@shortstackjim)
  20. Keep It Simple, Stupid – 6 Tips for Creating Clean & Simple PPC Landing Pages by Randi Lucius
  21. Landing Page Optimization Is Not a Strategy, CXO Is by Mark Simpson (@MarkJ_Simpson)
  22. Make a Big Impact on Your Landing Page with a Small Budget Video by Andrew Follett (@demoduckvideo)
  23. Simple Trick to Measure Social Media Efforts by Becky McCray (@BeckyMcCray)
  24. The Biggest Piece of Advice for Increasing Landing Page Conversions by Obaidul Haque (@obaidulhaque)
  25. The Landing Page Optimization Process [Infographic] by Oli Gardner (@oligardner)
  26. The Secrets of Selling Like a Skeazy, Slimy Used Car Salesman by Joanna Wiebe (@copyhackers)
  27. Top Problems with Landing Pages & How to Improve Your Conversion Rates by Ashley Zeckman (@azeckman)
  28. Why “Going Naked” Makes Sense for Landing Pages [Data] by Hubspot (@hubspot)

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

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Content Curation

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.

Free Gift: Create a Website that Converts from Andy Hayes [12 Days of Giveaways]

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A free gift from NMX Speaker Andy Hayes: Create a Website that Converts

Here at NMX, planning for our January event is in full swing…but that doesn’t mean we don’t have time for the holidays! That’s why, every day from now through December 25, we’re featuring a brand new giveaway for the entire NMX community!

One of the challenges we all face is actually converting our audience to sales. It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner, a blogger, a podcaster, or a video producer; if your website is your livelihood, you need to care about conversion. This guide from NMX speaker Andy Hayes and his co-author Kelly Erickson addresses this challenge. Here’s just a taste of what you’ll learn in this book:

  • The Best Language to Use on Your Website: Websites that convert use word choices to appeal to their ideal customer.
  • How to Compete for Attention: You only have three seconds to convince someone to stay on your website.
  • What You Can Do to Optimize Every Page: It’s not just your homepage that is important.

In addition, the last chapter in this book covers the most common mistakes people make on their website, so you definitely want to read this book from cover to cover!

Like all of our 12 Days of Giveaways gifts, Andy’s ebook is completely free for members of our brand new community, NMX University. (Don’t worry – membership there is also free!) You can download the free PDF for a limited time!

Find out more about this ebook and register for NMXU here, of if you are already a member, simply log in to NMXU here to download your free copy today!

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