BUSINESS STRATEGY

The Most Important Sale You Will Ever Make

The most important sale you'll ever make - it's not your products or services. For small business owners who are selling online, this is the key element to consider when it comes to your sales strategy.

I typically tell people I have a decade of sales and marketing experience because that essentially dates back to my first “grown up” job at Merrill Lynch in 2005. But to be honest, I had “sales” jobs even before that. In high school I applied for this program that involved working for Macy’s as basically a teen brand ambassador. At the time, I thought I wanted to work in fashion – and Macy’s is basically the only department store in Memphis, Tennessee – so it was kind of exciting. Little did I know, some of my “ambassador” duties included being that annoying girl shoving perfume samples in your face and begging you to just tryyyyy it.

It was – in my typical over-dramatic teenager life – the worst.

Trying to sell stuff to people who aren’t interested is bad enough, but being an awkward, introverted 16 year old girl trying to sell (overwhelmingly smelly) perfume to people who aren’t interested is a special kind of awful.

I am NOT naturally good at sales.

I am naturally good at shopping when things are on sale, but that’s an unrelated skill.

If you are a blogger / small business owner the most important sale you’ll ever make is yourself. 

Whether you are selling a product or service, you need an audience to sell it to.

That audience is made up of real people, and if people don’t know, like, and trust YOU, they won’t buy what you’re selling. You have to be able to sell YOURSELF before you can sell any of your products or services.

I’d love to tell you that if your product or service is really amazing, people will buy it anyway… but that would be a lie.

I’d also love to tell you that selling yourself is really easy… but for many people, that’s not the case.

I mentioned earlier, I’m not naturally good at sales, but I can sell anything I believe in – to pretty much anyone – because I can sell MYSELF and I’m good at figuring out what people want. 

Full disclosure, since my days pushing fragrances at the mall, I’ve actually had years of formal sales training. And over the past decade, I’ve sold everything from multi-million dollar investments in long-short hedge funds to $10 costume jewelry. I’ve sold products, services, and myself more times than I can count, so I promise you, it’s not that hard – IF YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOU BELIEVE THAT WHATEVER YOU ARE SELLING CAN HELP PEOPLE.

I tried to re-write that last sentence for maybe 20 minutes because it sounds so touchy feely – and I hate touchy feely – but there’s no way to get around it in this case. Believe in yourself. If you are going to let your self-doubt issues prevent you from putting yourself out there, you will absolutely have a hard time selling anything. Get over it. Seriously.

So here’s the thing. I know the idea of “sales” makes people feel icky. No one likes telemarketers. No one likes product pushers. No one likes the cheesy car salesman. (I’ve never even bought a car and I’m not a fan). But if you are reading this blog post, chances are, whatever you’re selling isn’t lame. Whether you provide a service like coaching / consulting / photography / design or you create digital or physical products, YOU have a serious advantage when it comes to sales:

You are in control of what you are selling and who you are selling it to. 

That’s HUGE.

That audience is made up of real people, and if people don't know, like, and trust YOU, they won't buy what you're selling. You have to be able to sell YOURSELF before you can sell any of your products or services.Click To Tweet

Most people who are out there selling stuff are selling someone else’s products and services – and they are selling it to whoever their employer tells them to sell it to. That kind of sales is not so fun unless you really like selling.

But if you are creating YOUR OWN products or services to sell – even if you hate the idea of “sales” – YOU GOT THIS.

You’re not selling products, you’re solving problems.
You’re not selling services, you’re serving your clients.
You’re not selling, you’re helping.

Remember that.

How To Boost Your Business By Creating Paths For Your Audience

I’m excited to have web developer (and all around awesome lady) Krista Rae here today to break down a VERY valuable (but often overlooked) part of blog strategy! 

How to boost your business by creating paths for your audience - a guest post by Krista Rae

Creating a defined blog strategy is something that benefits both you and your readers. You’ll find more focus for yourself, introduce your readers to your best content, and increase your conversion rates.

If I had to choose, I’d say the most important part of your blog strategy is defining high-value goals. However, after that I’d say it’s important to create defined paths for your audience to follow. This again is something that benefits both you and your readers. While your readers are discovering more and more content that’s relevant to them, you’ll find that sales of the products and services included in your paths increase also. Everybody’s happy!

Why Paths Are So Important

Think back to the last product or service you purchased from a creative entrepreneur. Did you buy from them the first time you discovered their blog? Did you buy from them without reading through any of their free material? Did you buy from a simple advertisement on their sidebar? My guess is “no”.

If you’re anything like me you start out by reading blog posts. Since this person ends up being someone you buy from I’d guess you read a lot of blog posts. After that, you may find yourself enrolling in their free email course where you’re given loads of valuable information. In that email course, you learn a little bit about their paid product that expands upon what you just learned. You don’t think it’s quite time for that, but you then receive their value-packed newsletters each week. After you run into that paid product a few times you finally break down. You know this product will further your business and it’s time to buy!

I know, that’s not how it always works, but it’s a common pattern.

That example illustrates exactly why defined paths to your paid content are so important. For someone to buy they need to be exposed to your content over and over again. This way they’ll gain comfort with you, learn that you know your stuff, and gain valuable information that shows them that your paid products and services are worthwhile.

In defining paths to a particular product, you’ll have some control over where your readers go. You can make sure that they’re exposed to your very best free content that will be relevant to them.

Before getting started with your path creation grab this free 7-page workbook to follow along and get your paths in place right away!

How To Create Your Perfect Paths

For the remainder of this post, we’re going to focus on creating a path for one of your products or services. Be sure to go back through the process for each paid product you offer so you don’t have any paid content without a defined path.

1. Choose your top-tier content

Your top-level content is the paid product or service that you’ll be leading your audience to. These are products and services such as paid courses, workbooks, eBooks, coaching, web design, and subscriptions.

If you’re just getting started, choose the product or service that your brand is most centered around. Creating paths isn’t always quick and easy, so it’s best to focus on one at a time.

2. Define the product’s audience

The first step in creating a path to your paid content is thinking about the traits of the ideal person who would be interested.

Think about the person who would purchase this product and answer the following questions:

  • What is it that they need help with?
  • What do they want to learn about?
  • What would they have to know before buying this product?
  • How are they most likely to run across your content in the first place?
  • If they’re interested in the format of your product (email course, course platform, audio, workbook), what other formats are they likely to be interested in?

3. Choose and create your mid-tier content

After completing Step 2, you should have a lot of new information about the people who are likely to spend money on your product or service. You know what they’re looking for, what they need before deciding to buy, and what types of content they most like to consume. These facts should be taken into consideration when choosing and creating your mid-level content.

Mid-level content includes things like webinars, workshops, free courses, free coaching or discovery calls, and your weekly newsletter. These items feel more valuable than simple blog posts or social media updates and they can lead right into your paid content. Something else to note is that it’s possible that everything you need is already created and just needs some tweaks, but it’s also possible that you’ll have to create all-new content to serve as this middle-ground.

Your paid content or service can be supported by multiple pieces of mid-level content. For example, if you know that the person likely to purchase your course enjoys video lessons as well as text, you could decide to mention that course in a related workshop and also link to it in your newsletter.

However, be sure that you’re not mentioning your paid content just for the sake of doing so. Give your audience some of the information they’re looking for up front so they learn to trust you. Look back on what they need to know before purchasing and make sure your mid-level content gives them that information. And always be sure that your mid-level content is closely related to the paid content you’re leading into.

4. Choose and create your bottom-tier content

This next step is the one that we’re probably most comfortable with. Your bottom-tier content includes blog posts, social media updates, Periscope broadcasts, podcasts, and any other free content that people are likely to discover you through.

Just like you used your mid-tier content to lead to your top-tier content, you want to use your bottom-tier content to lead to your mid-tier content. So for each piece of mid-tier content you defined for your product, choose or create several pieces of bottom-tier content.

If you’re using a free course as your middle tier, you could write several blog posts that lead into that free course, have a weekly Periscope broadcast where your call to action encourages people to take part in your free course, or even mention it in a podcast that you host or make a guest appearance in.

The easiest way to get started here is to go through your previously written blog posts and identify the ones that relate to any of your mid-tier content. If those posts don’t mention or link to that content, update them with a link and a little information that will encourage your readers to take a closer look.

5. Promote your bottom-tier and mid-tier content

Now that you have your path in place it’s time to help your audience find it. Be sure that you’re promoting your related blog posts on social media for your audience to find. It’s also a great idea to mention your free courses, workshops, and other content occasionally so everyone knows it’s there.

Getting your audience started out on a bottom or mid-tier piece of content will help you ensure that they see your paid content. It’s quite possible that they still won’t be ready to buy, but you can be confident that they know your product exists and that they’ll know where to go when they’re ready.

Make the length and complexity of your path based on the needs of your product or service.Click To Tweet

Quick Tips

We’ll finish off with a few tips to make sure your paths are as effective as possible.

1. Don’t forget to promote

Don’t skip step 5 of promoting your free content. Make sure you’re sharing that content on social media, allowing more people to find it. Remember, everyone loves free stuff!

2. Take advantage of your blog’s layout

I’ve written posts on making the most of your footer, sidebar, and above-the-fold space. Here is where those tips are the most useful. Put your mid-tier content in those high-traffic, high-conversion areas of your blog. This will make it more likely for people to find and join in on that high-value free content.

3. Make the transitions seamless

Make sure that transitioning from blog post to free course and from free course to paid course is apparent and easy to do. Put your links out in the open, preferably with an eye-catching graphic. Don’t let your readers miss out and stop on the bottom-tier when there is more valuable information available for them.

4. Don’t limit your paths

Don’t limit your paths to just the three tiers we’ve gone over. Sometimes it’s appropriate to create longer paths to your content. Don’t feel like you have to do something like a blog post, workshop, paid course when your paid course actually requires more familiarity and initial learning than a simple path would give. Make the length and complexity of your path based on the needs of your product or service.

What Paths Will You Create?

After reading this post, what paths are you going to create? Do you already have your bottom and mid-tier content created or do you have some work to do? Let us know in the comments!

Don’t forget to download your free 7-page workbook to assist you in crafting your perfect paths!

 

Krista Rae

Krista is a blog strategist and WordPress developer who helps female creatives elevate their business, increase conversions, and boost engagement through crafting strategic blogs. She uses personalized, goal-driven strategies to set her clients apart from the competition and highlight their unique offerings. Learn more over on her blog!

Find Krista on Twitter | Pinterest | Bloglovin’

 

How To Set Goals (And Actually Achieve Them)

Goal Setting for 2016: how to set goals and actually achieve them. 6 tips on setting goals for the new year for bloggers, entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Happy New Year! I feel very “adult” after a low-key New Year’s Eve celebration (wine, puppies, and my favorite people). I planned to do a year end wrap up post but decided to skip it in favor of some must-needed r&r during the holidays. I have been busy behind the scenes planning for 2016, so if there’s anything you want to see (or don’t want to see) on the blog this year, you can still shoot me a message or take a quick minute to take THIS SURVEY.

In the spirit of the new year, let’s talk about goals. I’m firmly in the camp that resolutions are lame and if you want to change something about your life (like work out more or drink diet coke less), you should START NOW and not wait until some day in the future. I’m sure there’s some statistic about what percentage of people actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions and I’d be willing to bet its not high. If you want to start the year fresh and make resolutions, I’ll cheer ya on, but if you actually want to accomplish big things in 2016, let’s make some goals.

I am a big believer in goal setting – and by that I mean making specific plans to achieve specific results.

I think “goals” sometimes get lumped in with resolutions on the list of seemingly pointless personal growth strategies, and some might argue they are basically the same thing but I disagree. Resolutions to me are like “trying” – I HATE trying. Trying is not doing.

When I worked in finance, we had one-on-one meetings with our managers at the beginning of the year to set business goals as well as personal development goals. We literally had to write them down on a piece of paper, talk about them out loud, and then map out a plan to achieve them. I still do this with my own business and personal goals except I type them out in a google doc instead of writing them down on paper (I kind of hate paper) and tell my husband instead of my manager (even if he forgets, it makes me feel more accountable when I tell someone else out loud).

HOW TO SET GOALS AND ACTUALLY ACHIEVE THEM

The most important part of goal setting (and somehow the part that most people skip) is mapping out a plan to achieve your goals! It’s silly to set a goal of getting 100,000 pageviews or making $100,000 and then just hope that happens. Seriously, don’t do that!

Personally, I like to start the year making a handful of goals (3-5) that seem kind of crazy. Like just beyond my reach crazy, not in another universe crazy. In the past, these goals have been things like make enough money freelancing to quit my day job, save enough money to move to NYC, and grow my dog’s instagram to over 10,000 followers. (pats self on back – I’ve accomplished all of these things!) When I first set these goals, they all seemed a a little scary / beyond my reach, but they drove me to work harder/smarter and accomplish more than if I were to set easily attainable goals.

After setting a few big goals, I break them down into smaller goals with “deadlines” throughout the year which makes things seem much less scary and much more attainable. I also like to celebrate when I achieve the smaller goals with fun little things like buying a new lipstick or indulging in a big Levain cookie. Or both.

But enough about me, what are your goals for 2016? If you still haven’t set them, here are a few tips for setting goals and actually accomplishing them.

cu-goal-worksheet

Limit The Number Of Goals You Set

If you set too many goals, you’ll be less likely to achieve any of them. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Set 1 or 2 personal goals and 1 or 2 professional goals. Think about the things that you REALLY want to achieve – the things that will change your life or help your business grow. For example, if you want to grow your social media following, don’t try to gain 10,000 new followers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Periscope and Snapchat all at the same time. Focus on 1 or 2 networks (preferably the ones where your ideal clients hang out) and grow those first.

Set SMART Goals

You’ve probably heard of SMART goals and while they sound kind of gimmicky, there’s a reason they are a thing. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely – by setting SMART goals, you force yourself to be more definitive which makes you more likely to achieve your goals! For example, one of my goals for 2016 is for Mochi to reach 50,000 instagram followers by the end of the year (note: I can’t believe I just admitted that). I know it sounds slightly crazy that one of my goals is having MY DOG reach 50,000 followers, but she currently has over 28,000 so this is realistic since she has been consistently gaining hundreds of new followers per week. I actually track her follower growth daily, so I know if she gets less than 100 new followers in a day, I will put more effort into the photos I post for the next couple of days to make sure she stays on track to reach her goals. (p.s. you should totally be following Mochi already)

The most important part of goal setting (and somehow the part that most people skip) is mapping out a plan to achieve your goals!Click To Tweet

Break Your Annual Goals Down Into Smaller Goals

While I do set goals for the year, I find that it’s even more important to set smaller goals for each month and quarter. Even if you’re not starting at zero, your end goal should feel pretty far away – and it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like you’ll never get there if you don’t set smaller, manageable goals in the meantime. One of the things I want to focus on for 2016 is growing my email list. It’s currently growing at a rate of around 500 net new subscribers per month, but I know there are a lot of other things that I could be doing to grow it even faster. My goal is an additional 12,000 subscribers in 2016 and I’ve broken that down into 3,000 new subscribers per quarter or 1,000 new subscribers per month. 1,000 sounds much less daunting than 12,000 so instead of thinking about my big goal, I plan to focus on my smaller goal each month.

Break Your Smaller Goals Down Into Specific Tasks

Once you’ve set your smaller goals, you need to create a plan to map out the specific actions you are going to take to achieve them. For example, in order to hit my email subscriber goals, I need to increase the activities that I’m doing to drive people to opt-in. I plan to increase the number of blog posts with content upgrades I do each month because these have resulted in the majority of my current subscribers. Additionally, I am implementing a more strategic social sharing plan for my free course, and in January, I plan to test a few other strategies like webinars, guest posting, and giveaways. Based on the results of those efforts, I’ll tweak my strategy moving forward to optimize my list building activities for the rest of the year.

Remember Why You Set Your Goals

When you set your goals for the year, you need to be clear on your “why” – If you want to grow your blog traffic to 100,000 monthly pageviews, why do you want to grow it? Probably not just because you just want pageviews. Maybe you know that if you have higher traffic, you’ll earn more affiliate commissions. Or if you have higher traffic, you can command higher sponsored post rates. Or if you have higher traffic, you can introduce your service to more people who will potentially become clients. Remembering your “why” will help to keep you focused on your end goals and prioritize the actions you take to achieve your goals.

Track Your Progress Regularly

Stay on top of your goals by tracking them regularly. Regularly means at least monthly, but depending on your goals you could track things weekly or even daily. Tracking progress may not seem like much fun, but it can actually save you a ton of time. By tracking your progress, you will be more aware of what’s working and what’s not – then you can do more of what’s working and stop wasting your time doing things that aren’t helping you achieve your goals. I know there are a lot of people who get a lot of traffic from Facebook. I am not one of them. I could put more effort into my Facebook page (or really any effort, to be honest), but my time is better spent focusing on Pinterest and Instagram because I know these two networks are actually driving consistent, quality traffic to my site. No matter what your goals are, tracking your progress will help to keep you accountable and focused throughout the year!

Let’s Do This

Ok, so where do I do all this goal setting and tracking? Honestly, I currently just have a google doc with my goals and subgoals mapped out and then a set weekly reminder to make sure I track progress for everything in a google spreadsheet. As a BONUS, you can download a handy goal setting worksheet that will walk you through setting deadlines, defining SMART goals, and creating an action plan!

cu-goal-worksheet