online marketing strategy

An Online Marketing Strategy for More Referrals, More Leads, More Business

Recently, one of my favorite website clients called with a problem. She lamented that the number of calls and requests for proposals her company receives each week had gone down over the past year or so and she wondered if it was time to do some Google Ads.

My client’s company has been doing business for quite some time, and I know they do a great job for their customers which results in excellent client relationships and repeat business. I asked my friend the million-dollar question. How often are you reaching out to your email list? Her answer was, we don’t have an email list and never send out email broadcasts. I’m really not pointing fingers since this scenario is very common and comes up in conversations I have with clients all the time.

A few months ago, I heard from another client, a high-end successful, jeweler I’ve known for years.  I know she is Rockstar and people love her work. In the past, this jeweler would have a booth at one of the more prestigious festivals in Atlanta and each year I looked forward to visiting her booth do a little jewelry shopping. She doesn’t do festivals any longer, instead, she has clients visit her home studio/workshop by appointment.  When she called me, she said her sales were down and she asked about doing ads to increase her business.

What I told both of these women is they are sitting on a goldmine of personal relationships. There are people out there right now looking for the service and products they offer. The problem is our “out-of-sight, out-of-mind culture”, makes it easy to be overlooked without routine touch points.

I’ll bet you or someone you know is in the same situation and could use an infusion of new business. Today’s post is about setting up an online marketing system that includes email marketing to nurture and leverage the valuable relationships you’ve built up over the years for increased sales, bookings and referrals. 

Start with a Solid Branded Website
Your online marketing strategy starts with niched and branded website with messaging and images designed to attract your exact target visitors and convert them into clients. You don’t want to spend time or money bringing people to the website if it doesn’t work to convert visitors into customers. It is not cost-efficient to engage in marketing or advertising activities when your website isn’t up for the job it needs to do to convert those visitors into clients. It would be like air-conditioning your house with the windows open. You may get people to your site, but they’ll take one brief look and bounce off in search of a vendor that offers what they want while making it easy to work with them.

Choose an Email Service Provider
Before you’re able to implement an email marketing strategy, you’ll need to get an account with a mailing list software like MailChimp that lets you create and send email campaigns You never want to send them through your regular email service. People hate getting them, and the delivery rates are low since they get caught in spam filters.

When you set up the account, create a mail list and customize the boilerplate confirmation emails that are created for you when you start the list. Very few people think to do this. But it is a great way to start a personal relationship with your new subscriber. You can also create a welcome email with an introduction to you and your company letting them know what to expect from you. Set this email to go out a few days after your new subscriber signed up.

Start Your List with a Warm-up Email Campaign
A warm-up campaign is a permission method you can to use to start an email list for your business using your current contacts. You’ll separate your contacts into various groups based on the relationships you have with them.

Current clients and your family and close friends will get email messages explicitly written in the voice and content you’d use with them. You let them know you’re going to be sending out emails on a particular topic that you thought they’d be interested in and in this case, you let them know you’ve added them to the list. Offer a big unsubscribe button and tell them you won’t hold it against them if they prefer not to receive your emails.

Separate your remaining contacts into lists of close or not close relationships. Handle people who are close to you the same as your current clients and friends by telling them you added them to your list with a button to unsubscribe.

You’ll send an email to others who you don’t know very well telling them what you’re up to and invite them to subscribe. I recently wrote a blog post with details for creating or warming up your email list. It will walk you through the steps in more detail.

Grow Your List from Your Website with a Simple Sales Funnel
Make it easy for your website visitors to sign up to your MailChimp email list by including several sign-up forms on your site. Make your website visitors an offer they can’t refuse by offering them some piece of information that they will be eager to get in exchange for their email address. Just a PDF or short eBook on a topic or process your target visitors will want will be the start to your sales funnel.

Our free Guide to Pricing Websites Like A Pro has been a very successful opt-in offer.  It’s attracted hundreds of aspiring web designers to subscribe to our list of potential students for our WP Web Design Mastery Course. It a good choice for us since it attracts the people we want but doesn’t appeal to more advanced designers or developers or people who aren’t freelancers.

Decide on Your Content
One reason people don’t reach out and connect with their customers by email is that they don’t know what to write. A second and related reason is they think that people won’t want to get emails from them. If people are interested in you and your product/company, they will want to hear from you from time to time, as long as they find your emails relevant and helpful.

Determining the topic and voice for your blog posts and email newsletters is the most critical step in this content management process. Create a content calendar of posts you can write.  Start by making a list of the questions your clients always ask that you can provide answers for. Add to your list offering solutions to difficult situations that your clients find themselves facing. How about sharing your productivity tools? I’ve written a blog post with over thirty other ideas that can help get you started.

Choose an Email Schedule
You’ll want to pick a schedule for sending out your posts to your email subscribers, and then, keep to the plan! If you’re erratic in sending out the emails, or too much time passes between emails, people are likely to forget they subscribed. It’s important to be a steady presence in your inbox so that you’ll not be forgotten. Will everyone open and read your messages each week? No, they won’t, but as long as a person doesn’t unsubscribe, your email is doing its job.  When someone needs a referral, your loyal subscriber will say, “I know just the person for the job!”

Content Marketing
When writing blog posts, the longer, the better for SEO and for readers to get a good understanding of the subject matter.  To have your posts attract the attention of your site visitors, include a relevant featured image. You can use the graphic design program, Canva to easily design branded graphics for your blog and social media posts. When you upload the text and image to your website, you can choose to publish it right away, or you can schedule it to pot on a later date and time.

You can optimize the chances for each blog post to come up in a Google search by using the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin will give you a list of things you can do to help improve the post for ranking.

For example, Yoast SEO It will let you add the keyword term and tell you if you have used the term enough for the search bots to know what the topic of your post. It will nudge you to improve your chances of finding search engine love by adding external and internal links to your posts. It will remind you to write a descriptive title and alt tag for your images which increases accessibility for the visually impaired. Without the alt tag, their screen reader can’t describe the image. Google gives you search engine points for helping the disabled successfully navigate your site. These items suggested by Yoast are best practices, but you don’t need to meet every one of them.

Email Newsletter
Build it, and they will come does not hold for writing blog posts and publishing them on your website. The next step of writing and sending a teaser/intro message for each post to your mailing list is a crucial step in this system. Add the teaser email message in MailChimp and schedule each email to go out on the same schedule as you chose for that blog post. The email should encourage people to click back to your website to get the full content which gives people a chance to see what’s new on your site.  The number of visits your website gets is considered by search engines when determining your search engine ranking. You don’t need a fancy email template. The latest user experience data says the simpler, the better since it feels like getting a message from a friend.

 Social Media Posts
The blog posts you write and send out in an email can do triple duty when you post a link and a blurb about the post on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. When you create the image for the blog post in Canva, you can quickly develop sizes that are ideal for these various social sites so that they display well when viewed by your followers. The point of posting on social sites is to have more people see what you are up to and follow the links back to your website for the full post. These posts give you extra bang for the buck when your social media followers share your content with their followers.

I know this sounds like a lot of work and it is. Although these items work best as a system, you don’t have to tackle everything at once. But, in most cases for people who have a service business with a good client base, keeping in touch on a regular basis with their clients is low hanging fruit for bringing in new business.

Even if you chose to advertise, you’d still have to do this work because cold leads take a lot of follow up since these people don’t know you yet. So an ad campaign would still require you, at a minimum,  to send out a series of autoresponder emails to introduce your company and nurture those leads until they’re ready to buy.

I know this system works. I’ve been sending out a blog post each week for almost ten years, and it has resulted in a steady stream of business. And those satisfied clients then refer us to others who also get on our mailing list and stay in touch.

This process with my weekly blog post has saved me all these years from having to do networking meetings or make sales calls to bring in business. Sounds good, right? Why not give it a try?

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