Don’t other people’s marketing campaigns always look like one part magic, one part miracle?
We know that behind the scenes, for a business to be a success there’s a lot of hard work, but from the outside, it’s really hard to tell what that actually is. Aside from Facebook ads, that is. (Am I right?)
I’ve had the privilege of going behind the scenes in all different kinds of businesses over the last 8-years. I’ve had clients launch a new service and make $2000 – and be thrilled! I’ve seen clients launch a new product and earn $80k – and be really frustrated!
But something I get asked a lot when I talk with my boss friends and readers is what do the “big guys” do differently to get such great engagement and strong sales?
How do they seem to create one profitable marketing plan and launch after another?
And most importantly: HOW CAN I GET ME SOME OF THAT? :)
I promise, there’s no hocus pocus involved, and while results might feel divine, they are really the result of measured actions that you can accomplish too.And yes, this all applies to service-based businesses just as much as to product creators. The key is acting on this information – taking it and doing something with it, instead of just thinking about it.
Are you game?
Then read on!
There are three crucial pieces your profitable marketing plan should include:
I suggest you start by putting together a plan for the story you’ll tell, define the traffic paths you’ll focus on to reach your audience, and gather the resources you’ll need during your campaign.
1. Story: Start a compelling conversation
From your perspective, a campaign is about the product or service you’re promoting. That’s why you spend time identifying the features of your product and the various aspects of your service that set you apart from your competition.
But this is where new marketers often get stuck and sound like infomercials: for your audience, the product or service is not the focus. For them, your campaign is actually about engaging with your story, getting involved in the conversation, and becoming invested in the dialogue you create with your content.
Your audience wants a compelling story that teaches them something first. Your product or service should be a natural, helpful next step that comes second.
If you’ve focused primarily on your product in the past, you’re not alone. Many beginning marketers do just that, but over time they learn to create conversations that lead to better conversions. They learn and develop their marketing muscles to create one profitable marketing plan after another.
So, this is your opportunity to do things differently – and in a more effective and value driven way. Write a story based email funnel, instead of a promotion based email funnel.
To plan your story based sales funnel, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the primary client need I want to highlight?
- How does it feel (from the client’s perspective) to have this need?
- What words does my client use to describe this situation?
- How can I frame the question or issue?
- How can I challenge assumptions and deepen the conversation?
- How does my offering solve this problem or add value here?
Use your answers to identify themes that matter to your audience and tie them back to the solutions you provide. Then use those themes to genuinely helpful content that illustrates your point, and you’ll start people talking about you and engaging with your brand.
2. Traffic Paths: Build bridges into your business
Now that you’ve planned a compelling story – one that will capture attention and create conversation around your brand – build a bridge to connect you with your audience.
Start by planning how you will connect with the people who already know about your work. You don’t have to do anything new here, you can simply focus on the paths that have worked well for you in the past.
These can include:
- Blog posts and your newsletter
- Email marketing to a segment or more of your list
- Social media engagement include organic reach and paid posts
- Special events such as trainings, webinars, etc. for your existing tribe
(Not sure which traffic path is most effective for you? I wrote a blog post recently about the 5 most important metrics to watch, and one of them is traffic paths. You can read it here.)
Of course, not everyone knows about your amazing work yet, even though they need exactly what you offer. So, let’s include a few traffic paths to help you reach new audiences with your brilliance.
A few options to consider are:
- Joint ventures to reach a compatible audience
- Affiliate marketing relationships
- Guest posts and podcast interviews
- Webinars or live events to attract newbies to your story
- Content such as a video series, free download, or workbook
Clearly, you can’t use every one of these traffic paths in your campaign. You’re building a few bridges here, not creating traffic gridlock. The goal is not to do more, it’s to identify what works for you and make your efforts as effective as possible, so don’t feel pressure to do it all, okay?
Wondering how to select the “correct” traffic paths for your audience? I recommend following your instincts and diving into a little experimentation. Step out and add something new to your next campaign, even if you are satisfied with what you’ve done so far. You never know what you might discover with a little trial and error.
3. Resources: Proper preparation for positive results
A profitable marketing plan requires more resources than you think at first, which is why many people scramble to pull things together and get what they need. Preparing properly will ensure you are ready to respond quickly as your audience engages with your story crosses the bridges you build to your brand.
- Fully Trained Team – The time to build marketing skills in your team is NOW – before your campaign begins. Try to anticipate each person’s role and work with them to create a detailed plan for their actions during the campaign. Consider both your administrative needs and the creative roles you need to fill and plan for any needed training time in advance of your campaign.
- Support – Time to look at your contact list and think about the people who can support you during your campaign. Friends with a similar audience may be willing to promote the content you publish during your campaign. They may also be interested in a joint venture or allowing you to be a guest on their blog or podcast. Start the conversation with them now, and make sure you both feel comfortable working together when the campaign begins.
- Collateral – Will you run ads? Share your content on social media? You need graphics. Will you run a webinar? Time to check out some software. Freebies for contests or list building or traffic sources? Put that stuff together now before you really, desperately need it. (And before your freelancer’s schedule is booked!)
Put your preparation time in, and watch it bloom into a profitable marketing plan.
Sure, planning and preparation that go into building a profitable marketing plan is a lot of work. If you’re putting together a campaign for the first time, you might be uncertain and feel overwhelmed, too. It’s tempting to skip the planning steps and just see what happens. But trust me, you don’t want to do that.
Something happens when you have a plan – even if the plan isn’t perfect. Most importantly, you give yourself a chance to improve your results over time. And while you’re learning, you feel more confident, more relaxed, and more engaged with your audience. And that, my friends, is pure magic.
Feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to promote your products and services? Marketing is a learned skill – and we get better at it over time. Check out this walk through of planning for marketing success, one step at a time.
Measuring growth in our business ventures can feel like a complex and all engrossing task of its own. Keeping track of metrics like followers, email Subscribers, and site views… all these numbers can feel very cold and unfriendly at times. Especially when we are trying to generate enthusiasm to build new and exciting opportunities for your business.
I think for a lot of us the reason why we struggle so much with our data and numbers in business is that we tend to lean more on right brained thinking – artsy and visual thinking – than the left brain – logical and linear thinking.
These very different parts of our brains coexist in such a beautiful way that inspired me to write this post about how to start using your data numbers to grow your business, even if you relate to being more of a right brained thinker.
One of the biggest ways I’ve used my data (Google Analytics, MailChimp, Social Media to be a few) to impact my business decisions is to bake what I learn into my quarterly reviews. At the end of each quarter, I review the last quarter data, interpret and digest what happened in relation to my goals, and then use that knowledge to shift my plans.
I want to be honest with you. I don’t always enjoy pulling this data and taking a look at the numbers.
I’m sensitive and sometimes I get emotionally triggered as to what some of those numbers are really saying about my business (and it’s not all good). And yet, tracking these numbers has become a very natural and powerful ritual.
I take a good hard look at what is working and not working with what I’m doing online, either where I am spending my time or money, to how I’m focusing my attention on a launch and attracting the right time of visit to our site.
Below are three areas of my business that my data has greatly informed in my last Q2 review (and that has shifted my work now in Q3). I hope this will inspire you to start looking at your data more often!
In Q2 I had one of my most successful course launches and one area I paid particular attention to was where I was getting the most traffic from as I was actively promoting and doing webinars for my launch.
Being able to directly see where traffic was coming from (and which traffic was leading to actual course registrations) shifted where I was focusing my efforts.
Key Metrics I Reviewed:
- Marketing Channel Conversion Rate
- Webinar Conversion Rate
- Site Visits from Affiliate Referral Posts
My Big Takeaway:
In this launch, the biggest learning was that I was getting more traction writing for affiliate sites and building those relationships instead of creating content for my own blog. I also compared this traffic information with how people were opening my emails and attending my launch webinars, to connect the dots on which topics and subject lines were resonating more with my audiences.
Launches can feel like an emotionally intense roller coaster, but bringing in some awareness to my data brought many decisions down to earth for me.
One of the most important learnings for me last Q2 was that doing too many different types of marketing for my ideal client was ineffective, confusing and draining. I knew that I had to start getting smart about where I spent my mental juice looking for client leads and how I presented myself as a brand.
As I could feel myself getting close to feeling completely burnt out, my body knew something needed to shift but the data was also giving me all sorts of signals as well.
When I published something cohesive with my branding and that I energetically fully believed in, I was getting the most meaningful comments and interactions from women following me. I also noticed a positive spike with vanity metrics like page views, email opens, and subscribers.
Spending time with these numbers (even though sometimes looking at email open rates can bring on negative emotions) got me to consider more closely my branding as well as redefining who my ideal client really was in the first place and what kind of problem I was solving for their business.
Key Metrics I Reviewed:
- Site Visits/Leads from Marketing Channels
- Site Visits/Leads from Affiliate Sites
- Podcast Downloads
My Big Takeaway:
Because of all this analysis, I’ve made extensive adjustments in my marketing to simplify and only focus on the efforts that are serving me and my ideal client in the best way with my present situation. At the end of the day, this was my podcast and affiliate marketing. It felt scary but I decided to put Instagram and Emails more in the background, and even though I still do them, I’m not as focused attracting quality traffic from these sources.
Again, my focus was on attracting meaningful leads, with the awareness that my data was bringing me.
Another essential area of my business that I’ve been focusing on for awhile is paying attention to all the qualitative data (not hard numbers or statistics about my business) floating around my ideal client by seeing what kinds of things she’s posting online.
Things like what they suffer with right now in their business, what they are reading, what they are listening to, how they like to be worked with, how they like to be sold to, and what services they do buy, were all questions I became more and more in tune with answering.
At the end of the day, this is really about my client’s data and how what I do in my business can serve them. Suddenly, I was becoming a curious listener, picking up from other podcasts, blogs, interviews, emails, Instagram Stories, anywhere my client was emitting a signal on the internet.
Key Metrics I Reviewed:
- Types of Issues Ideal Client Suffers with
- What services do they buy online
- How do they like to work online
- How much $$ do they spend on digital services per year
My Big Takeaway:
Luckily, all this data is pretty readily available, it was just a matter of becoming more open to finding it and then storing it in a place that I could easily access later. For me, this is a combination of Google docs where I store words and language they use, service ideas, and any other information about their business.
I also have paper documentation (because I’m a total paper freak!) with about 10 different real women I’d consider my ideal client and that I’d love to work with someday. Some of those names are pretty dreamy but I like to think big. I’m constantly paying attention to what these women are talking about on their social media or email newsletters and filling in the gaps with how their needs and my services can collide (in awesome and world changing ways!).
Again, this type of data feels “warmer” and more human, but it’s still important information I can use for building services that really resonate with who I’m looking to sell to.
Looking Forward to Q3
Already this quarter has felt so different than the last in terms of where I’m spending my time and energy and I know the data has played a huge role.
I’ve started putting together notes for my next course launch based on the data I collected from the last launch and I’m feeling much calmer about my goals since I know what numbers I’m starting off with.
I’ve shifted my marketing focus and the content I’m putting out there based on data from Google Analytics to make sure I’m attracting the right type of audience, that eventually I might sell something to.
Finally, my services are feeling more in line with my goals and it’s because of the qualitative data I’ve been uncovering from real women, either through asking directly or listening neutrally to for nuggets of information.
As always, just looking at your data to make decisions isn’t enough.
(Cick to tweet it!)
Just like left and right brain, you need to incorporate both intuition and data to really fully be present in your business decisions. Making decisions where you feel a mix of fear and excitement in your stomach, when you hit send on that email pitch and jump in your seat, shaking off the nerves, can be the best for your business, especially when you know the data is backing you up.
At the end of the day, all this business stuff is a big experiment to play with, to be 100% present to and learn to enjoy at your own rhythm.
Cinthia is the part data-nerd, part creative mastermind behind Digimorph. With over four years of corporate experience in digital marketing and web analytics, she is on a mission to inspire women entrepreneurs to unleash the untapped power of their data without feeling all the overwhelm.
She offers two Google Analytics courses: Google Analytics course for Web Developers and Web Designers and another for Bloggers who want to grow their biz strategically to bring in more opportunities!
Want a repeatable sales process? You’ve got to track metrics.
But not just any old metrics. Track the numbers that matter – the ones that help you really evaluate how you’re doing and give you insight so you can make better decisions.
You don’t need to go overboard and track everything – unless that gets you excited, in which case you have my permission. (And let’s hang out.)
But there are 5 key metrics you don’t want to forget:
Moola – revenue and profitability
Ah, revenue. We love you. We get excited about “six-figure launches” and sustainable, high producing sales processes. Revenue is easy to track (just look at your bank account) and it’s fun to watch and report. The more revenue you bring in the better you’re doing, right?
Not necessarily. Revenue alone is only part of the equation.
Along with the grand total revenue number, there’s a little thing called profitability. It’s easy to ignore in all the excitement of a sales campaign, but it’s really the more important of the two metrics. It’s the amount of revenue you actually get to keep and spend (ahem – reinvest) in the future.
If you want a repeatable sales process, track sales expenses right alongside revenue:
- What did all those Facebook ads cost?
- How many labor hours did you add to the budget to support this campaign?
- Did you buy new software or pay for graphics?
- What about payment processing fees and hidden expenses?
Add up the expenses and subtract them from the revenue. That’s your profit – and it’s a super important metric for decision making. That six-figure launch of your dreams might not be as profitable (after the advertising spend required to get that revenue) as a simple promotional campaign to your existing list or a joint venture with a strategic partner.
List Growth – who they are and how they found you
Promotion (done right) does more than sell your products and services. It expands your reach and grows your audience. In fact, list growth can be the most important result of a sales campaign in terms of creating a repeatable, reliable sales process for your business.
So make sure you track the numbers, okay? But don’t stop there.
I suggest you take the time to dive a little deeper and get to know the new people on your list. Some may fit your ideal client profile for this campaign while others may be looking for another of your products or services. Still others joined because they were intrigued with your mission or message but they aren’t ready to do much about it yet.
When you discover who they are (and how they found you) you can begin to build a closer relationship with them – and create reliability in your sales process.
Traffic – it’s not all created equal
Traffic is a good thing, right? More eyes on your website, more people engaging with your promotional materials, content, and webinars. You can find lots of advice from sales gurus and experienced marketers encouraging you to drive more and more traffic to your stuff so you can get better results.
Sorry, I’ve gotta do a little myth busting here.
You want more sales and more brand engagement, not necessarily more traffic. Volume doesn’t matter as much as quality – and quality is all about engagement.
There are a lot of tools to help you track the sources of your online traffic – which I call traffic paths. Google Analytics is one of my favorites. With just a little practice you can dig into the details – and get insight into how people engage with your stuff once they land on it. Once you’re armed with that information, you can make decisions about which traffic paths to expand which to move away from or minimize. After all – the more you know about which of your traffic paths is the healthiest, the more reliable your results will be.
Conversion rates – break down the results strategically
Okay, let’s get serious about marketing metrics and take those traffic numbers we’ve just talked about and put them to work. (Caution: Math Trigger Warning) Time to figure out the conversion percentage for each main marketing channel you usually use.
Hang with me, this is good stuff. I promise.
Let’s talk hypothetically about a typical promotional sales campaign with traffic paths that include Facebook advertising, email marketing, a free webinar, and a series of blog posts. All this stuff can feel like a ton of work – especially when you only have a small team to implement all of it.
Many people I speak to (post campaign) use words like “simplify” and “avoid burnout” when sharing goals for future sales cycles. They want to scale back the effort without scaling back the results. But, it’s pretty tough to do that without an analysis of conversion rates by tactic.
Here’s how you do it:
- Determine your traffic numbers by tactic (i.e. how many people came to your site from Facebook ads).
- Determine how much of that traffic converted into a sale (i.e. how many of the Facebook ad people bought your stuff).
- Divide the conversion number by the traffic number for that tactic to get the conversion rate (the math part).
Yes – it takes a little planning (so you can gather the information you need) and a little math but the results are rich. Once you know that your email marketing campaign converts at 11% but Facebook ads only convert at 2% (for example) you can make decisions on how to invest your resources – and spend money building and nurturing your list in between promotions rather than buying ads during the campaign. Powerful stuff, isn’t it?
Customer Acquisition Cost – not for the faint of heart
The big kahuna of sales campaign metrics is this one – How much did you pay to acquire each new customer? It takes a little more math to get this number, but it’s worth the effort because once you know this you can create a reliable, repeatable sales process for your business.
One you know how much money you need to invest in Facebook (or email marketing, blog content creation, promotional webinars, etc.) to get a single new customer you can totally scale your sales system.
- If every $5 you spend on Facebook ads yields one direct sale of $50 is a pretty good deal. You may want to invest more heavily in Facebook ads. (CAC = $5)
- If it takes $500 in Facebook ads to fill a webinar (with 100 people) that yields 10 sales of $50 each (CAC of $50) you might need to think a little longer about using a webinar in the future.
It’s not the size of the customer acquisition cost (CAC) that is most important. It’s the size relative to the revenue generated per sale. A CAC of $5 that represents 10% of revenue generated per sale is just fine. It’s okay to have a CAC of $50 that represents 10% of revenue generated per sale too. But when your CAC is 100% of the revenue generated per sale, you’ve got a problem.
Head spinning with numbers and not sure where to start? That’s ok! Let me help you create a Simple Sales System to get repeatable results (without too much math). Learn more here.
Finding the right business coach is a tricky thing.
A few weeks back I came across an interesting discussion on Facebook. Someone had made the decision to move forward with getting support with growing their business. They met a popular business coach and everything sounded great! It was an investment, but this business owner knew she needed to invest in their business to take it to the next level.
But as their coaching experience started it felt… off.
Instead of a personalized approach, she got a series of calls full of exercises and homework that were time-consuming and didn’t get results. She sometimes felt like she was being sold to, and at the end of their time together she hadn’t met any of the outcomes she and her coach had agreed would be exciting goals.
I was sorry to hear this story of underwhelming results from business coaching, but unfortunately, it’s not unique.
Many women I speak with have spent thousands of dollars on disappointing coaching experiences. Their coaches ask them to set intentions, track results and do basic ideal client exercises but unless you’re a beginner, their work doesn’t get big results.
There’s a simple reason for this that we need to talk about:
Most business coaches are life coaches with business experience. They have little to no training or experience in improving business results.
Does this mean that a life coach can’t be helpful to a business owner?
Hell no! A skilled life coach can help you stop sabotaging yourself, process your feelings about your work, and design a way to work that feels better to you.
Does that mean that your life coach should help you with your marketing or profitability problems?
Hell no! Someone without business or marketing training – life coach or not – may be helpful if they’ve made a study of business and you have a similar style of business and target market. Otherwise, at best you’re getting armchair psychology and personal opinion.
Fact: Marketing, profitability and conversion optimization – turning views into customers – are specialized, learned skills that take years to understand and apply in real time.
When we ask for advice from people who haven’t studied marketing, that person does not have the tools to tell you why your sales page doesn’t sell, why your launch is faltering or why your social media fans aren’t turning into customers.
Their good results will not necessarily become your good results. You may not pass Go. You will be lucky if you only spend $200. Believe their lengthy disclaimer.
The bottom line is that we can all do better.
As customers, it’s our job to ask questions that make our consultants think. We owe it to ourselves to find out who sounds good, and who really is the right business coach for us. As ethical professionals, it’s our jobs to be clear about what we can and cannot help with.
That way everyone wins.
Here are five BIG questions I wish everyone would ask to make sure they hire the right business coach for them:
- “What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in your business, or that you’ve helped clients tackle?”
Ask for specific stories or examples, beyond buzz words like “I’ve helped to increase sales.” For what kind of businesses? Over what time frame? How many people did they have on their team? Using what methods?
- “How do you market your business?”
What is the time commitment for them, and do they have support? What other approaches do they recommend for clients who don’t have the same expertise and support as they do?Inexperienced coaches apply one tactic to all clients. No matter what that client’s resources, target market, or work style is.
If a potential coach doesn’t have other strategies to suggest, it’s likely that their methods only work for some of their clients. Ask for clarification on why, how and when they recommend a specific approach. If it sounds like they don’t have other ideas or can’t explain the principles on the fly, run.
- “What kinds of activities do your clients do between calls to meet their goals?”
A potential coach should be able to name specific examples of actions would help you step toward your business goals. Setting intentions is a great first step in a first phone call, but you already have the intention to increase sales! You don’t need someone to tell you to cultivate that. Concrete changes like adjusting your sales page based on your work and monitoring conversion rates are what you should be listening for.
At the end of February, I had the chance to hop down to Mexico with some whip-smart boss friends I’d made through business and blogging over the years. Most of us hadn’t met in real life before the trip, but as soon as we arrived we slipped into a rhythm of sharing stories and ideas alongside with belly laughs and heart-to-heart moments.
We spent the week making meals in our hotel room, lounging in the private pool on our deck (yes please!), staying in our PJ’s all day and otherwise nerding out. We talked about having a long term online presence, personal branding, our dreams for the future, content marketing, online courses, SEO, conversion rate testing, publishing books, storytelling and Facebook ads.
You know. Typical internet girl talk!
These ladies are all exceptional humans and badasses at their work, so enjoy meeting them and a sample of their work to bookmark for later reading:
From left to right:
Katie Lee, author & lifestyle Designer from Hey Katie Lee (Read her post: THIS is your WHOLE life)
Kathleen Shannon, designer & podcaster from Braid Creative & Being Boss (Listen to: Being Boss, read How you do anything is how you do everything)
Sarah Von Bargen, writer & business consultant from Yes and Yes & her small business blog (Read: What you’re really seeing when you see success online)
Sarah Morgan, designer & online teacher from XO Sarah (Read: Seven questions to ask when your passion based biz starts to feel like work)
I learned so much from them. And so much about how writing is such a huge part of all of our lives.
Speaking with them made me realize that while I write here almost every week, I’ve almost entirely stopped telling personal stories.
While I want to share actionable listical posts that help thrive, I don’t want to do that without sharing more of the why.
I want to talk about why it’s worth pouring yourself into your passions.
And what it actually takes and costs to get a project off the ground.
About how the nuts and bolts of making a living from your blog, or from a business that’s tied to a blog truly work.
I want to talk about what it’s like to launch your thing and hope it soars.
Or, more realistically, how to launch your big idea by throwing it in the air as high as you can and then running underneath it, knocking at it with a broomstick to keep it in the air until it finally catches the wind and soars on its own. (Also known as the story of everyone’s first several passive income products.)
So keep an eye out for me. I’ll be in this story and in more to come.
Alright, on to the listical reflections you’re used to.
Here’s some of what the trip taught me:
Break out of your routine to shake up your creativity
There’s nothing like a change of pace to help you see what’s not crucial to your work. Getting a break from my routine (and the Internet, thank you Mexican providers) helped me remember how I can design and decide every aspect of my work experience.
In the past few weeks, I’ve pulled back from blogging to examine my choices, and what gets me results. I’m simplifying and focusing on what moves the needle in my business, and I’m saying no to everything else. I’m calling it an obligation vacation, and it’s been the best!
You can’t find your people without reaching out.
Spending time with people who have shared experiences – even if that experience is navigating online work and life solo for many years – is incredibly life-affirming. I filled pages and pages with notes, wrote down blog names to explore, books to read, and generated more ideas than I have in years.
Keep looking for your people, and to find them, reach out to people you aren’t sure are your people. Be yourself and reach out. Show up with your signature kindness, share your searing sarcasm. Like everything, or like nothing. Just be exactly who you are, but give people an opportunity to sign up for that by connecting with them where you already love to be. And that can be inside Instagram, at your favourite coffee shop or inside a boardroom.
When you find someone you click with? Make face time a priority, hop on Skype with each other, take a road trip and soak them up. They’ll light the best kind of fires in you.
Do what you love with tenacity, while checking what works.
One of the things that kept coming up was that everyone is figuring this out as they go along. We’re all learning about new ideas and tactics, and trying them out as best we can. We’re all following our interests and passions, and seeing where they lead. (more…)
Content creation is always on my mind. If you write online or communicate for a living, it’s probably always on your mind too. Especially if you’re a blogger, and most especially if you’re a new blogger.
I’m not a new blogger. I started my first blog in 1998, writing personal stories several times a week. Other blogs came and went before I started KylaRoma.com, but I’ve never stopped writing somewhere for more than a few weeks since.
For many bloggers & small business owners, the question “What will I post next?” is a constant, gentle hum in the back of their minds.
Over time, my relationship with that question has changed, and now it feels like a wise friend, gently checking in on me.
But for many of the business owners and bloggers (and for me in the past!) the question “What will I post next?” feels more like a threat. Or if not a threat then like a question asked by an insistent, judgemental distant relative.
As a blogger and business owner, the best way I’ve found to change my relationship with content creation is through planning.
No matter how much or little I write each month, even 10 minutes of planning a week can make an enormous impact on its success and how much it helps my audience.