I would attribute a huge part of my success in growing my solicitor’s practice to email marketing.
Anybody with an ounce of sense can, with a little research and study of online/digital marketing, quickly recognise the stunning power of email marketing in helping you grow your business.
However, it is not all plain sailing.
In fact, there is one simple way to ensure that your attempts at using email marketing will flounder badly and, in fact, be stunningly counter-productive.
The power and purpose of email marketing
Let’s back up for a minute and take a look at the power and purpose of email marketing: the power is that you get access to a person’s email inbox.
The purpose is to get the opportunity to earn your position as a trusted advisor/expert in your particular field.
The knock on effect of this win is you get a chance to sell your products or services later on in your relationship, when the subscriber to your list feels the time is right and he/she is comfortable in doing business with you.
It’s worth dwelling on this idea briefly:in exchange for someone’s email address you promise to deliver into their inbox something of value, probably on a regular basis.
The outcome of this exchange will be, if done property, the trusted authority status you seek, and of benefit to you as business owner and to your subscriber.
But before this exchange, before a website visitor gives you their email address, you must give them something of value in advance-an “ethical bribe”, if you will.
One way to blow this strategy out of the water is not to deliver value in advance, not to provide an incentive for the reader to give their email address, not to give them the opportunity to confirm that they want to join your email list, and simply to go for the short cut.
The counterproductive shortcut
The short cut?
Simply putting someone’s email address on your list, without their consent, without a “double opt in”, and sending them unwanted commercial emails.
There is probably more than one definition of spam, but unwanted, unrequested commercial emails into my inbox is a sufficiently accurate definition for me.
So, for me, it’s spam.
Look: let me be clear: if you add me to an email list of subscribers without my consent, and send me commercial emails, I will simply report your emails as spam in my Gmail account.
And the consequence of this is that your email will simply be undeliverable with future emails going straight into my spam folder.
Google is good like this.
There is only one thing worse than this mistake in your email marketing and that is getting someone else, for example a so called professional marketing company, to make this mistake on your behalf.
Not only will your emails go straight into spam, but you will be paying some “marketing/promotions” company for the privilege of having your email address blacklisted.
As I said earlier in this piece, I rely hugely on email marketing.
I work very hard to grow my subscriber lists
But each and every one of my subscribers to my many email marketing lists has been bribed in advance with something of value, such as a free guide, in return for their email address.
In addition, they must also confirm that they want to opt in and receive communications from me; and, finally, they have the opportunity in every single email to unsubscribe from the list.
Don’t want to hear from me any more? Just hit the “unsubscribe” link and I’ll be gone like a thief in the night appears regularly in my emails.
When you go to the trouble of doing it right, and creating something of value to swap for an email address, I find it easy to get angry when I receive commercial emails from people who have simply added me to their list and hoped for the best.
The sad thing is that I received a lot of good comment about the article at the time. Positive comments from people who had the same view as me. You can see them below the article.
But I was completely wrong, and advertising on Facebook is now a central part of my online marketing efforts.
I took the time to learn about Facebook advertising, and then began implementing what I learned from others, and from my own trial and error and observation.
Now, I get likes, engagement, page likes, post likes, shares, comments, video views and, most importantly of all, leads and clients. Yes-I have got clients straight off Facebook, at very small cost per lead/client.
Cost of Facebook Advertising
I primarily advertise with an objective of page post engagement with my video posts, and for page likes (not so much now because I have enough of them).
Facebook Page Likes
I can now easily obtain Facebook page likes for $.01. Take a look at the screenshot image below, and you will see that I got 6,013 page likes for my Terry Gorry & Co. Solicitors Facebook page for $51.75-a cost of $.01 per page like.
When anyone lands on any of these individual pages they are not backing away because nobody else likes the page, or because they are doubtful; they are reassured by the large number of other people who like the page.
Not the sexiest topic in the world, you’ll have to admit, yet take a look at the statistics:
172 likes, 51 comments, over 40,000 views, 25,351 post engagements for $46.28
And the cost per post engagement? .002 of a $US. That’s two tenths of a cent per post engagement!
The vast majority of my ads, over 95% in fact, are video based ads. The videos are basic, just simple, useful tips for my audience/target market.
And new clients?
I have a “conveyancing/property purchase” campaign running at the moment. It comprises approximately 10 videos dealing with various aspects of buying a house.
My spend is $5 per day, and I have obtained 3 new conveyancing clients in the last 3 weeks. This is a massive return on my spend if you consider that one conveyance will generate a fee of €1,100 to €1,900 plus vat and if you are acting in the sale and purchase, which I will, I will get both the sale of the existing house and the purchase of the new one.
I haven’t even discussed probably the most powerful aspect of advertising on Facebook: the powerful targeting possibilities with all your ads.
Do yourself a favour: don’t make the mistake I made and overlook the power of Facebook advertising. Take the time, though, to learn Facebook advertising.
And be sceptical about commonly accepted wisdom as to what works and doesn’t work with Facebook advertising.
Experiment and test yourself. Think about who your ideal audience is, your perfect customer, start small, scale up.
And don’t be afraid to change your mind and put the power of Facebook to work for your business.
That was my son’s reaction when I showed him the Facebook page.
Do you know the way young people know everything?
The way they are all full of piss and vinegar?
My son’s 19, so anything that would impress him in relation to social media is worth a second look.
And if you are a business owner, or thinking about starting up a business, or you need to sell a product or service this piece about what I showed Paddy will be useful.
Sounds good? Let’s take a look.
Firstly, we need to understand and recognise social proof.
Wikipedia defines social proof as
Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behaviour for a given situation.
If you have teenage kids you will know that when they tell you all their friends are going to the concert, or all their friends have a particular brand of runners, or football boots, or other brand you will have to start reaching for your purse or wallet.
Because your kids won’t want to be left out. They won’t want to be seen as socially gauche, or nerdy, or geeky, or “uncool”.
And you won’t want that either.
Social proof was described as one of the 7 principles of persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his seminal work, “Influence-The Psychology of Persuasion”. At its most basic Cialdini recognised that we are hugely influenced by what others have bought and approved of.
Another example of social proof at work is when you are invited to a party. There are two sure things:
You don’t want to go if nobody else is going, and
You don’t want to be first.
So, what’s this got to do with the Facebook page I showed Paddy?
When someone lands on the page, and they are researching an employment related problem, one of the first things they will consider is whether I, as the man in the videos and owner of the page, actually knows what I am talking about.
Am I spoofing, or am I an authority, someone who knows their stuff?
On Facebook they will invariably check how many fans the page has.
This is social proof. This is what I showed Paddy.
The number of fans is over 10,000.
This is what prompted the “holy s**t” remark.
Ireland is a small country; employment law is not the sexiest topic in the world. We are not talking about a fan page for Justin Timberlake or Miley Cyrus.
So, 10,000 fans is pretty good; it’s pretty impressive social proof.
Social proof is incredibly powerful. You need it in your business, no matter what you are selling.
Because nobody wants to be first, nobody wants to be the guinea pig, nobody wants to discover that you are completely untested.
You may not have a Facebook page with 10,000+ fans. But you should make it your business not to overlook the power of social proof.
Perhaps start with a testimonials page on your website or blog?
Are you confused about what actually works to grow your business on the internet?
Yes, it’s easy to be confused. Because there is lots of conflicting advice.
About blogging, websites, social media marketing, video, audio, YouTube, podcasting, search engine optimisation, guest posting, etc.
Some of this advice is well intentioned, some is plain wrong, and some is simply theory as to what might work.
Throw paid advertising and expensive “consultants” into the mix and it’s easy to just sit tight and do nothing.
I understand your situation, because I was there too, not so long ago.
I am a lawyer and my book “The Art of Marketing Your Services Business Online:How to Get New Clients With a Proven, Inexpensive 5 Part Digital Marketing Strategy” sets out exactly the steps I have taken, and take every day even now, to grow my client base.
And my income and profits.
What’s in this book is the exact strategy I have followed since 2011 to build my law practice by getting new clients through smart, cost-effective online marketing.
So if you want theory or a bird’s eye view of online/digital marketing this book is not for you.
But if your business provides a service, and you want to increase the number of your clients by exploiting the power of the internet, this book will help.
Because it sets out the proven, simple 5 step strategy I use on a daily basis since 2011.
With my strategy you will have a clear action plan to exploit the power of the internet to increase your client numbers.
This clarity will allow you to clear away the fog of confusion surrounding your efforts, and help overcome any procrastination about what you should be doing.
The strategy I set out in this book can work for you too, provided you take action and follow the steps, and adapt it for your particular business.
It’s not a silver bullet. There are none, I’m afraid.
It is a cost effective strategy that will, as sure as day follows night, drive new clients to your business.
It doesn’t require a huge investment of capital.
All it requires is consistent work by you on the 5 pillars of the strategy.
They are easy to follow, provided you are committed to serving your market, and want to grow your business by tapping into the power of the internet.
This strategy has worked for me, and allowed me to build a successful law practice with practically no money investment.
No virtual assistants.
No unethical practices.
Take the steps in this strategy and you will truly serve your market.
And grow your business by steadily acquiring new clients who will see you as trusted authority, a “go to person” in your industry.
The biggest obstacle to selling your goods or services online is not price, not technology, not lack of traffic, not paucity of Facebook fans or Twitter followers.
There is one fundamental element necessary to persuade your visitors, followers, fans, random surfers to reach for their credit card and buy what you are selling.
And that one element is trust..or lack of it.
Trust can be defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
On the internet especially this vital element is the one big barrier between your business and a sale or new client/customer or even a new subscriber to your website content.
Overcoming a lack of trust
Trust online, just like in the real world, must be earned. In the context of marketing your business online gaining your visitors trust must be one of your principle goals for your website.
Gaining your visitors trust firstly involves demonstrating your expertise or authority in your marketplace.
This is not a short term thing though-it involves a commitment to providing great value content on a consistent basis for your website visitors-publishing really useful information or tips addressing the very real problems that your visitors are seeking to solve or ameliorate.
It involves building a relationship with your visitors through various incredibly effective and ethical means. The two most important and effective methods of building trust and demonstrating authority are:-
1. Publishing great content consistently on your site
2. Email marketing-building and maintaining a relationship with your subscribers by firstly giving them something of value for free for becoming subscribers and just when you think you have done enough..give even more value.
You will know that you have succeeded when someone emails or calls you and asks you this question:
“what would you recommend?”
Aside: a number of years ago in the United States a tv company carried out an experiment outside a small town bank. They, with the consent of the bank, put a sign in the window saying “Bank closed for training- please give your deposits to the security guard”.
Outside the bank the security guard, resplendent in a new security guard’s uniform, accepted deposits for the duration of the experiment. This “security guard” was an employee of the tv company..
Over 90% of bank customers willingly gave their hard earned cash to the security guard. When asked afterwards why they, to a man and woman, pointed to the uniform and the sign.
“He looked official”.
This experiment demonstrates the power of trust and being the authority and is why police, army, judges, barristers and so many other figures of authority wear a uniform of sorts.
Fortunately you don’t/can’t wear a uniform online..
..but you can become the authority and overcome the single biggest impediment to sales online-trust.
William Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest playwright in the English language, can help you grow your business.
What the fluff? Have you lost your marbles, I hear you ask?
Let me explain.
Have you ever heard of Freytag’s pyramid?
No? I don’t blame you.
I didn’t either, until I began researching the power of story in persuading people.
Story can go where data and facts alone are unable to travel: the human heart. Freytag’s pyramid sets out the structure of a dramatic work such as a play or film.
Freytag studied Shakespeare’s plays and ancient Greek drama and discovered that there were 5 steps or acts in a powerful drama:
Falling action/reversal, with the protagonist/hero defeating the antagonist
Resolution/ending/happy ever after.
These, too, are the elements of a great story-one which will move the listener to action.
The most popular ad at Superbowl 2014 was an Anheuser-Busch ad for Budweiser. It lasted 60 seconds and cost in excess of $4,000,000.
It told a story about a pup and a Clydesdale horse that people loved, and has been watched over 58 million times on YouTube.
(Unfortunately, they have made the ad “private” and it is no longer accessible on YouTube)
The success of the ad came as no surprise, though, to researchers at John Hopkins University in the United States who, after a 2 year analysis of 108 Superbowl commercials, predicted the success of the “Puppy Love” commercial.
One of the researchers, Keith Queensbury, knew this ad would be huge because:
“People are attracted to stories, because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people.”
Queensbury also found that ads that told a complete story using Freytag’s Pyramid were far more likely to succeed, and be popular.
There are good neurological reasons why stories work to move people. During tense moments in a story, our brains produce a stress hormone called cortisol, which allows us to concentrate.
A happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system to release dopamine, making us feel hopeful and optimistic.
It’s easier to persuade someone who is hopeful and optimistic rather than pessimistic and devoid of hope.
In short, storytelling induces trust in the listener.
Storytelling is old-fashioned because it has been with us since the first man/woman walked the earth.
But it works. It works to move people to action, to persuade.
Aristotle knew this. Shakespeare knew this.
Moving people to action, persuading is what you are trying to do in your business, isn’t it?
You loved that phrase when you were a child, didn’t you? Your mother or father was going to tell you a story.
We all love stories, and share them in our lives every day.
Some might just be gossip, some might be a juicy tale from work, some may be dramatised and acted out on our tv screens-Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale, Fair City-, some may be shown online or on big screens in the cinema, some may be consumed on Netflix.
But the human brain seems hardwired, from time immemorial, for story.
Neuroscience tells us that the human brain is not hardwired to retain facts or data, but is easily able to retain stories.
Religions have been built on stories and parables. Early man communicated with story through cave drawings.
What are the elements of a good story?
What role, if any, has story in your business?
Robert McKee is one of the foremost experts in story in the world. He is a Fulbright scholar and one of the most sought after screenwriting lecturers on the world.
What struck me about what he had to say about the role of story from a business’s perspective was as follows: it is virtually impossible nowadays for one business to differentiate itself from another.
One solicitor/accountant/management consultant/dentist/manufacturer of widgets can be pretty much like another, because of the ease nowadays with which one business can copy another and provide the same goods and services as the competitor. For example, if your business is in manufacturing there is nothing that cannot be outsourced to China or other low cost manufacturing countries.
These products and services are easily duplicable.
So, how do you differentiate yourself?
No two people or businesses have the same story. Each person’s and business’s story is unique.
Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, has banned the use of Powerpoint presentations for meetings by Amazon executives instead insisting that executives come to meetings with a 6 page story, in order to make meaning out of life and their business.
McKee’s use of story in business is based on replacing the use of rhetoric-the use of data and Powerpoints alone and inductive logic-with story in order to persuade and move people to action. The use of rhetoric is like the use of science to build an argument with one important exception: science will include all data whereas rhetoric will leave out the evidence which is negative in terms of supporting the argument.
Story is a different type of logic-the logic of cause and effect- because it allows, unlike the use of data alone, the use of all the forces of life-social, physical, inter-personal relationships, family, friends- to explain why things are the way they are, and to make sense out of life. It does this by allowing the reader to step back and look at the inter-related forces which shape events in life and influence the future.
Story doesn’t exclude data though; it includes data within the story to explain how and why what is, is.
And it is the telling of story with the consumer or client as star/hero-at the centre of the story- which allows you use story to market your business and have the consumer choose you because you are different.
And because you/your business/your brand, as mentor, allow your client/customer become the hero of the story.
Story as a tool of persuasion
McKee tells us that there are 3 ways of persuading:
Rhetoric-use data, PowerPoint, facts leading to a deductive conclusion: “therefore”. But you will have left out everything negative, and the audience know you are distorting the truth and being selective with your data
Coercion-use seduction, abuse, bullying. But coercion is short term and won’t work in the long term because once you turn your back the old behaviour will resurface
Story-take all the facts from rhetoric and all the emotions from coercion and tell a story which stars you/your business as an underdog, admitting to the negative, to setbacks, and ultimately succeeding-the hero’s journey.
There has to be negative, though, in any credible story. And the mistake many businesses make is in telling only the positive, and ignoring setbacks, hurdles, and failures which had to be overcome.
4 elements of a good story
McKee says there are 4 critical parts to a good story:
Trouble and strife
The starting point of all stories is a moment of disruption. A negative event throws the protagonist’s life out of balance, hooking the audience’s curiosity: How will this turn out?
How will he restore the equilibrium? Will he be able to restore things? Will he be changed as a result?
Where’s the underdog?
For a story to engage the feeling side of its audience, it must draw them into empathy or identification with a protagonist who, like the audience, is up against very powerful forces of antagonism.
Don’t star yourself
The line between autobiography and bragging is thin. Therefore, at those times in business when you must talk about your life, try to tell your story from someone else’s point of view.
If you were to talk about your university years, for example, tell the story of how an inspirational professor opened your eyes to a profound truth. Make the professor a star and you a lucky bystander.
What do you want the reader/listener to do?
Start with the action you want your listener to take.
Then ask yourself: “What kind of story would trigger that action in that particular person?”
From there you follow your imagination and the arc of the story back to the beginning: “What event would throw my protagonist’s life out of balance and launch a series of actions aimed at that trigger action?”
With those two posts in the ground, you build a bridge of story to suspend between them.
In summary, a story will have the following 5 stages:
An inciting incident for the protagonist-can be by accident or design-which must hook audience /readership; the Quest then is for the protagonist/hero to restore balance involving objects of desire
Another way of looking at the stages of a good story is provided by Conor Neill, an Irish guy teaching about persuasion and communication at IESE business school in Barcelona (http://www.conorneill.com) This blog is well worth checking out.
Begin stating the moment in time
Introduce the situation and key characters
Something out of the ordinary occurs
Allow the tension to build – pause, add detail to the complication
Resolve the complication
4 elements which must be clear
What’s the goal of the story?
Grab attention with a hook
Engage-what makes the story compelling? Is there a protagonist with conflict?
How is story enabling action?
Greg Power, a Canadian expert in communications for 30 years gave a TEDx talk about the power of story. (Check it out here).
3 attributes of great stories:
Irresistible-make it dramatic and remember, drama is about conflict
Believable-cultural relevance-how do they see the world? What are their beliefs/motivations?
Unforgettable-feelings drive decisions; unconscious mind driven by emotions; emotions are oragnised as story narratives
Emotional narratives rule and are easily recalled, unlike facts and data.
What’s your story?
Have you a compelling story that people will relate to?
Have you failed? That’s a good start for a compelling story that people can easily relate to.
Is your business blog or website failing to deliver any concrete results?
Do you struggle to attract visitors and traffic?
Are your conversion rates poor?
There are a multitude of reasons why many websites and blogs of small businesses fail to deliver any effective results.
Here are 6 common ones that I encounter regularly:
1. Poor or inadequate content
There are two aspects to this cause of poor blog performance-one is insufficient content or information on the site. You simply cannot rank well for search phrases or topics that do not appear in your website’s content.
And if you don’t rank well you won’t attract visitors because searchers generally only visit the results on the 1st page of Google; they are very unlikely to go deeper into the results and are more likely to carry out another search rather than visit page 2 or 3.
So you need to rank well for a wide variety of search phrases that your ideal reader is using to find information and a solution for her problem.
The second element is a failure to optimise what content is there for the search engines to ensure the best chance of ranking well.
This is called “on page search engine optimisation” and is a fancy way of describing some basic rules for presenting your content well for the search engines to help your blogs rank well in search engine results.
2. Poor or nonexistent call to action
Lots of sites make it hard for visitors to make contact or make an enquiry-the contact details are only available on one page and you have to search around to find them.
Make it incredibly easy for your visitors to contract you, and give them a range of options such as phone, email, contact form, Skype, Google Hangouts, or walk into your office.
Some people are happier emailing for more information, some like to pick up the telephone, some may even want to text you to make initial contact; regardless, you need to make it incredibly easy for your visitors to contact you in whatever form they like and respond promptly to their query.
3. Failure to promote your site effectively
Unfortunately the notion of “build it and they will come” will not work-you do need to promote your content and your site.
And promoting it does not amount to asking people to “check out my latest blog”-you need a little more imagination than that. You also need a systematic approach to using social media to get your message and content out there.
Which platforms are best for your business will depend very much on your ideal reader and client-for example, professional service providers such as accountants, consultants, and solicitors may find an interested audience on LinkedIn while a hair and beauty therapist may find a more receptive audience on Facebook or Twitter.
You need to give people a reason to read what you have written and answer the question of “what’s in it for me”, which the reader is asking.
There are far too many competing distractions on the internet for a boring, bland request to “check out my latest blog” to have any real effectiveness.
4. Cluttered and busy site design
Many sites are simply too crowded and cluttered to ensure effective outcomes from visitors-you should have one or two preferred actions that you want your website traffic to take.
And you then need to make it incredibly simple and glaringly obvious to the visitor as to what they need to do next.
Leonardo Da Vinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
5. Content-failing to cater for what people are actually searching for
Yes, back to content again-because website content is the single biggest problem for most small business blogs and websites.
This aspect of the problem is the failure to target the specific words and phrases that people in your market are actually searching for, and failing to understand what motivates your ideal reader, what worries her at night, what common problems he faces on a daily/weekly basis.
This failure is a serious one because if you do not know what worries your ideal reader and what motivates her, you are unlikely to provide content that interests and inspires her; and your visitors are unlikely to view you as the person who can help them.
If you are not addressing your readers’ worries and concerns, if you cannot demonstrate that you are a person they can trust and who knows their stuff, and if you cannot persuade them you are a person or business they can feel comfortable working with, you can be sure that your competitors are working hard on this.
Many websites use a font size that is too small and virtually unreadable for older readers. They forget that when you use a 12 point font in a letter the recipient can hold it up as close to their eyes as they wish; they can’t do this with a computer screen.
Most people, when faced with such a tiny font size, will simply click away back to the search results. (I myself actually copy and paste it into a Word document and set the font size to 16 or higher, but most people won’t do this).
The good news?
The good news is that all of these mistakes are easily avoidable and can be prevented with
Simple, uncluttered design
Content that speaks to your ideal reader
Smart, cost effective promotion of your blog content on the social media channels that are right for your business.