When Prospects Are Involved, They’re Influenced
How effective is your business’ web presence?
These days, nearly every “serious” business has a website. Most also have some presence on social media, review sites, and the like.
But you can tell how serious a business is about attracting, wowing, and retaining the best customers by looking at how they use their web presence.
Does the business just have a simple, “cookie cutter,” do-it-yourself site with basic information and maybe a cool image or two? Many firms – too many, given the phenomenal failure rate of U.S. small businesses these days – give prospects nothing more than the basics. They publish websites that are little more than online business cards.
At the other end of the spectrum, some businesses use their websites as one of their best marketing tools. These sites do more than inform prospects of the basic name-rank-serial-number facts of their business. The best websites go far beyond providing information – they also involve, intrigue, and even inspire people to investigate (and patronize) the business.
The best websites are designed and written to truly influence a business’ prospects and customers.
One way you can tell you’ve found a crackerjack business – one that’s going the extra mile to influence you, and therefore will probably go to great lengths to please you – is to look at how the business uses its email list.
The best customers want more than information… they want to be intrigued, inspired, and involved in your business. And the best way to involve the best customers is through an active and effective use of your mailing list.
Can Your Customers Sign Up With You… And Will They?
When prospects (and potential repeat customers) visit your firm’s website, they need to see an opt-in box for your mailing list right away.
It should be “above the fold” – in other words, it should be one of the first things your website’s visitors will see.
And it should be easy. Don’t try to collect gobs of information from your prospects in order to place them on your email list. Too often, an opt-in box will be designed to collect everything the sales person will need to process a purchase order, from telephone numbers and street addresses to the personal stuff (like Social Security numbers and dates of birth).
For whose convenience is that designed?
Not your customer’s.
Unless you really don’t want people to sign up with you, make the opt-in process as easy as possible for your website’s visitors.
If all the customer has to do to get involved with your business is input her name and email address, she’s much more likely to sign up than if you ask for her mother’s maiden name or her first boyfriend’s shoe size.
Remember: this is an email marketing list. It’s not meant to establish a password-protected user profile, or anything like that. You just want to be able to stay in touch with the prospect… and all you really need for this list is her name and email address.
Offer Your Prospect A Useful Freebie
Some visitors will sign up for your email list just to get more information about your business.
But not many.
If you offer a useful freebie – generally, a collection of information your prospect will genuinely find handy – the odds of building your email list with quality customers and prospects increase dramatically.
What’s a useful freebie?
How about a list of “The Top Ten Reasons To Do Business With My Firm?” Hmm. That list might be more enjoyable for you to read than for your prospect. It might come off as a bit “selly” to be a free offer.
What about: “The Top Ten Questions You Should Ask A Firm Like Mine”…? That’s better. It isn’t all about you (though your firm would undoubtedly come out on top if the prospect really did ask all these questions of you and your competitors and compare the results). For a prospect who’s really just getting started, this freebie could be useful.
But the very best freebies are information pieces that would be of interest to anyone who visits your site, and ideally, would be customizable to the prospect.
For instance, a manufacturer who produces and sells forklifts might give away a report on the top trends in warehouse safety. What does that have to do with selling the prospect a big order of forklifts? Nothing… unless you consider that, by offering such a report, the manufacturer establishes herself as a leading expert in a topic sure to be of interest to potential forklift buyers. And if warehouse safety is a big deal when considering which forklifts to buy, well… that can’t hurt, can it?
Does your product or service help your prospects reduce costs? Then give away a report on general cost savings for small businesses (or whatever kind of businesses you’re targeting).
Do you bring in revenue for your clients? If so, they’d probably appreciate a general report on the latest trends in sales and marketing… especially if the piece is written to provide ideas specific to their type of business.
The bottom line: make your freebie as useful to as many ideal prospects as possible.
Make it something the prospect really wants or needs, and he’ll gladly give you his email address in exchange for it.
Use Your Email List Wisely
Once you’ve built a nice list of “leads,” be smart about how you use it.
Don’t “spam” your list with frequent selly offers. Nothing gets otherwise-involved prospects to “opt out” quicker than the realization that they’ve signed up for a constant barrage of sales messages.
Speaking of opting out, make sure your communications always tell recipients how they can quickly and easily be removed from your list. It’s the ethical thing to do (and, in some cases, it’s a legal requirement). Then, make sure you’re sending out useful stuff, so the frequency of opt-outs is kept to a minimum.
One of the best uses of your list is to send a professionally-written and well-designed newsletter to your list on a regular basis. Again, the information you send can mention your firm and any great offers… but the newsletter should “lead” with generally-helpful information or updates which are of particular interest to your readers. You want them to look forward to that email from you on, say, the 10th of each month.
By the way – if you’re going to do a newsletter, make sure you’re consistent. Make sure the piece goes out to your list at a regular, predictable time (say, the 10th of each month, to repeat).
Your email list can be the life blood of your business. Properly built, maintained, and used to keep your customers and prospects involved, your email list will be the crown jewel in a powerful online marketing presence for your business.