If it’s not direct response, you’re doing it wrong

If you don’t have a way to tell exactly which leads or customers were generated from exactly which marketing sources, I would say that none of your marketing strategies are working. In order to really be able to say which marketing strategy is working best, you need to start doing direct response marketing, which means creating advertising materials that have a built-in way to track effectiveness (and that doesn’t mean your marketing methods have to be high tech).

Here’s an example: Your main strategy is putting up signs at three different busy, local intersections with your business name and phone number, and you get lots of phone calls, so you assume it’s working great. Here’s the question: how do you know that those leads got your number from the sign? Since you’ve got signs at multiple intersections, which one is getting you the most calls? How do you know they didn’t just find your phone number on Google?

The truth is that if you can’t answer these questions, you’re doing it wrong.

Let’s just say that instead of believing that your intersection signs are working great, you decide to get more scientific about it. You get new signs for each of the three intersections: one has your phone number, one has your business partner’s number, and one has your business’s front desk number. You replace your website phone number with a Google Voice number. Each of you keeps a careful record of incoming calls for several weeks, and in the end you see that 64% of calls came to the Google Voice number, 28% came to your business partner’s phone, and the remaining 8% went to you phone or your business’s front desk.

Knowing that most phone calls come from either the website or one particular intersection, you can go take up the signs from the other two intersections. Since 64% of calls come from Google, you could also experiment with buying Google AdWords and setting them up to go to a specific phone number so that you know who’s coming to your site through an ad and who’s coming there organically.

Marketing is not magic. It’s scientific, but because most people view it as magic because they don’t take a scientific approach.

Here are some tips to make your marketing more scientific, reliable and effective:

  1. Make a list of all of your marketing strategies, how much you spend on them each month, and how many customers each method is bringing you. If you can’t answer that last question, alter the methods so that you can track their performance, like in the example above. If you can’t answer the last two questions, you’ve got some work to do.
  2. Start thinking of marketing as a science experiment in which you create hypotheses and conduct experiments. Marketing should be data driven, not emotionally driven, so get excited about your experiments!
  3. Get back to basics. You shouldn’t have to juggle 5 different marketing strategies – instead, use the scientific method to figure out which ones are most effective and focus on those.

5 clues you might need a web design update – #2

What’s the point of a website?

To inform people about your business? Sort of.

To tell them about your personal history? Maybe.

To show people about your upcoming events, like summer camps? Not quite.

The point of your website is to sell, plain and simple, and the information about you, your business, and upcoming events is only there to contribute to the goal of selling your product or service. The truth is that your website can either be your best salesman or one who blows all of the deals, all of the time.

Is your website a good salesman?
Good First Impression

No one’s going to buy from a salesman who creeps them out or rubs them the wrong was in the first few seconds – he won’t even get a chance to start his pitch. The reality is that people judge books by their covers, and the same goes for websites.

Make sure you web site has a clean, professional design that looks like it was made in the last few years. If you haven’t done anything to your website since 2006, that’s like the salesman who hasn’t bought a new suit since 1986 – yikes! You can read more about web design here.

Extraneous Information

If the goal of your website is to sell, then every single word you write there should be contributing to that goal in a subtle way. As you review your website to determine this, it might help to write down your entire sales process when you talk to a new leads. For example, if you regularly talk to parents who are interested in signing their children up for tennis lessons with you, what do you say to them? What do you say that seems to get them excited? What things have you said that turn them off? What are some key words that seem to resonate with them?

Once you have this kind of information about your sales process, take a look at your website. You want the site to take potential customers through a similar process, saying all the things that really resonate with and excite them and avoiding those turn-offs like the plague.

Clear Call to Action

Pick one call to action (CTA), such as requesting a free tennis lesson, to focus on for your entire website. The CTA you choose should be something that you have experience doing and know that you can easily convert on – the website isn’t a place to try cool new tricks and ideas, it’s a place to automate businesses processes that are already working very well for you.

To continue with the tennis example, if you want parents visiting your site to sign their kids up for a free trial lesson, make it as easy as humanly possible for them to do so.

Provide subtle opportunities for users to complete the CTA on practically every page of your website, so that all roads lead to Rome. The key is to do this subtly and in a way that looks good so that users aren’t annoyed – working with an experienced web designer can help you with that.

5 clues you might need a web design update – #1

When thinking about your website, a key component is web design. For people who aren’t designers by trade, this can be an afterthought or seem unimportant (“My content is good, I’m a great instructor, so who cares what it looks like?”), but the truth is that people judge books by their covers. One study found that 94% of negative website feedback was design related (Sweor), so even if you don’t feel like design is all that important, it’s important to accept that your customers unconsciously do.

So here’s a tip: take a look at your website and imagine it was an outfit.

Would you wear it? Would you wear it to a meeting with a potential client? If you site is like the digital version of one of those 80s parachute jackets with clashing, in-your-face colors, random geometric shapes, and a weird texture, you should start looking into an update, fast.

Also, if you’re website is like the digital version of that guy who is still sporting some light wash L.L. Bean jeans from the 90s with a stained, white undershirt – it’s time to get things together here.

Clearly, this outfit thing is a metaphor, but it works.

Think about your favorite type of outfit, the one you would wear to feel the most confident, or the really expensive one you dream about wearing. What would you wear to an important meeting where you were really trying to land a deal? If your office is the tennis court, what would you wear if you were going to play in the finals of the French Open? Think about the colors, patterns, styles, jewelry, and shoes.

If your favorite thing to wear is sleek, black Nike shorts and collared shirts with a pop of color in the shoes, you might consider a sleek, black website with a a lot of black and white images and a vibrant accent color or two. You want your website to authentically reflect the vibe of you and your business in a professional way.

If you happen to be a person who loves those parachute jackets, that’s fine too – your web design can reflect your whacky style, but it needs to do so in a highly professional and polished way so that people know it’s intentional. (There is a style called web brutalism that makes web design purposely “bad” or outdated, and while I’m personally a fan of this style, it’s not right for everyone – you have to consider your audience).

In thinking about all this outfit stuff, what kinds of clothes do your clients wear? Notice what they wear when you see them, or what the parents of your students wear when they drop their kids off. You can use your current clients to help you develop a template for what kind of clients to attract in the future, and observing their wardrobe can help you understand what they are attracted to from a design perspective. For example, if you’ve got a lot of moms wearing white pants and colorful, floral blouses when they drop their kids off, you might consider white and colorful accents for your website. When they see your site, they’ll automatically feel like you’re the right person for the job.

By far the best thing you can do for your web design is to realize when it’s time for an update, and the second best thing you can do is to hire a web designer for the job. Thinking about your website from an outfit perspective may seem silly, but it will help you a lot in being able to effectively communicate what you want your website to look like to a designer.