A simple strategy to convert blog visitors into sales leads

If you’ve read {grow} with any consistency you’ll recognize Jon Buscall as one of the most vibrant intellectual voices in our community. Today Jon tackles the tough issue of monetizing a blog community in our next installment of Community Week:

So many people (including Mark!) have written about the SEO benefits of blogs that I’m not going to repeat that here.  But one thing that rarely comes up is how B2B blogs help businesses convert readers and traffic into sales. Or whether they actually don’t!

Repeat Visitors & Conversion Apathy

If you’ve drunk the business blogging Kool-Aid and worked hard over time to build a strong, vocal community on your blog you might well find that repeat visitors don’t convert into sales. Go on, check your stats!

Regular visitors are there for something else: the community, the discussion, or even the friendships that forms around a successful blog.

As a business blogger it can be worrying to see that even if you’re putting highly visible call-to-actions above the fold the stream of regular visitors to your site forget about your propositions.

Maybe it’s because:

  • regular visitors get used to your site and go straight to the content
  • you don’t vary the call-to-actions often enough so they become “invisible”
  • you don’t maximize the content space you’ve got to pimp your services
  • regular blog readers often read your site with a news aggregator like Google Reader or NewsFire.

Why I Love First-time, Unique Visitors

My own experience is that it’s easier to covert first (or second) time visitors into clients with a B2B blog.

Yup, without going into the nitty-gritty of my own site stats, the biggest groups that make enquiries about our services at Jontus Media are, in fact, first timers. They’ve googled something, clicked through to our site and, low and behold decided to contact us (and Oh, boy do I love it when that happens!).

Google Analytics tells us this, but so do our customers when we ask them.

Now this isn’t to say that we’ve got spectacular landing pages or catchy call-to-actions littered across our site; but it does seem to suggest that all that our effort to build a community might be wasted! That in fact, the trust and thought-leadership that regular b2b business blogging generates is spotted by a cursory glance.

Google Analytics tells us that it only takes first time visitors a matter of minutes (or seconds) to convert organic search traffic into sales.

Give Me More !

Now I’m not knocking first time conversions. But I do want more business from that 30 percent of visitors who come back to our website on a daily basis. Even if it’s just a percentage or two.

So when it comes to B2B blog strategy I’ve got a few suggestions for those of us in the B2B business blogosphere who aren’t converting repeat visitors to customers. And want some of it.

Ask Yourself:

  • Are our call-to-actions strong enough?
  • How is the site working to remind the community that this is a business and that services (or products) are for sale?
  • Is the overall site design geared towards conversion?
  • Could we refresh the site design more frequently to stop visitors getting blind to our call-to-actions?
  • Could we be making more use of our RSS feed to generate leads?

Finally, just to throw the baby out with the bathwater, maybe I’m wrong. And as I write it occurs to me that quite, possibly I am. Maybe I’m going after the impossible. Hell, maybe I shouldn’t think of a B2B blog as a conversion channel for repeat visitors in the first place?

Perhaps a B2B blog could / should just be a means to a different end. A great way of funneling visitors to an email list, for example, to be used for direct marketing.

Or perhaps it’s a word-of-mouth tool to help spread the news that you’re a kick-ass company with creative, insightful, quirky, talented staff.

So go on, help me out here! What can we do to really make a B2B blog a conversion engine? Or are B2B blogs for entirely different things?

______

Jon Buscall is head of Jontus Media, a creative content & communications agency working out of Stockholm, Sweden. You can follow Jon on Twitter.

No budget? Apply guerrilla marketing ideas to the social web

I first connected with Nathan Dube in 2009 when I fell in love with his now-famous destroy your printer contest. This guy has a knack for making something out of nothing and is the ideal person to talk about guerrilla marketing and the social web on our next installment of Community Week on {grow}:

Guerrilla marketing is about eclectic combinations of music, mystery, art, culture, humor and social dynamics coming together into a sales pitch that doesn’t appear to be a sales pitch. It manifests itself as a hip invitation to join or to be part of a movement.

One of the most infamous recent examples of guerrilla marketing was when the adult swim Network placed electronic signs for its Aqua Teen Hunger Force show around Boston, resulting in a bomb scare and eventual arrests. It didn’t work, but you get the idea. I’ve had to resort to guerrilla tactics myself in my job with Expert Laser Services, primarily because I needed to sell more stuff, but had no money for marketing. I had to get inventive. I had to get guerrilla.

An idea sprang from my own frustrations of having to deal with office laser printers and copiers which simply didn’t work … when you needed them most. In fact, I genuinely developed a hatred for certain pieces of office equipment.

Through Twitter, blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn, I promoted a contest that would award a small prize to the video depicting the most creative destruction of a printer. People blew them up, tossed them out of windows and crushed them with a backhoe. In essence, the social web was providing my content. Remember, I had no budget!

Soon, the project was featured all over the web and was the top video story in an online trade magazine for several consecutive weeks. We actually generated sales leads and new customers from this promotion.

But the most fun guerrilla social media tactic had nothing to do with business, it involved my band, Jabooda.

When the band formed four years ago, I produced several thousand stickers that read “What is Jabooda?” Through friends of friends of friends, these stickers made it on to random spots throughout the United States and even Europe.

When we came out with the second generation of stickers I included a small URL on each one to help people connect with us on the web.  In addition to hitting the streets with the sticker, we got guerrilla with the distribution process, too.

Two of the guys from the band worked for FedEx and started to put a supply of stickers in every truck they unloaded or loaded. Over the course of the year “what is Jabooda” became a bit of a sensation and we gained new fans at FedEx hubs in nearly every state and many countries around the world.  FedEx had become our own personal social media network!

The stickers drove people to our website where we were able to collect names for our mailing list.

About two years ago some of our new fans built a page on Facebook to lobby to get us on the bill at the Wormtown Music Festival, one of New England’s longest-running and most popular music events. We did not get the slot, but we were moving in the right direction.

The following year the competition heated up and Facebook alone wasn’t going to do it. To get into Wormtown’s Strangecreek festival lineup the next year, we had to win a battle of the bands competition. We actually made it to the finals but to win, part of the criteria was the size of our fan base. It was time to use that mailing list!

We got the word out to all those crazy Jabooda fans and were able to attract a large crowd from several different states. In fact, it was the largest crowd of the night and we won, securing our place on the festival bill.

Don’t have a marketing budget? Don’t let it get you down. Go guerrilla!

Nathan Dube has been a long-time member of the {grow} community and is a marketing and sales professional at Expert Laser Services near Boston.

The Introvert’s Guide to Twitter

Johnny Spence has been one of the most consistent and entertaining contributors to {grow} over the past year so it only makes sense that I feature our favorite dude in Barcelona during a week highlighting community voices …

Hello World. I’m an Introvert.

And I’ve been happily been using Twitter for about a year and a half. While my follower count won’t set the world on fire (maybe reheat my coffee instead), I’m rather weary of the notion of becoming the Twitter superstar.

Maybe it would be nice to one day have ten thousand followers spreading the Gospel of Johnny to every corner of the world but there’s one thing. Coming from an admitted introvert, this isn’t my style. I’m already sweating how to handle the nearly thousand I already have although I think I’m doing an OK job so far.

Still, I always use to have this feeling that, even after such a long time, I still never quite “got it.” Anybody, even good ol’ dad, can think of something to say in a brief sentence and let it rip. What makes the rest of the twitterverse, or just a little corner of it, really care and decide “Hey, I want to hear more” though?

Then it dawned on me (actually while I was just writing this sentence). Just keep doing what I’ve been doing. I probably don’t view Twitter as, say, the average twitterholic but I do see it as sort of a house party you’re always welcome to whenever you need a break from the toils of work. Introverts included.

That said, with such a gathering, too, comes my own take on the personalities I see on a daily basis at the biggest avatar party on earth. Keep in mind the introverted perspective here.

(Actual) Celebrities

You can’t see them, being surrounded by so many tweeps. Given their “accessibility,” however, I still tend to shy away from these folk, except for maybe @Alyssa_Milano. I wouldn’t mind giving her a grammar lesson or two but that’s a job for the publicists. I’ll just stick with my TMZ fix in the meantime and not fight through the mob.

Social Media Socialites

Well, they can neither do a 360 windmill jam nor light up the big screen but their word permeates the digital world like that leftover kung pao chicken sitting in the microwave on high. Don’t get me wrong, the Godins and Kawasakis out there can dish out a quip that briefly knocks the earth off its axis. I get the feeling, though, that they’re too busy commandeering a bedroom upstairs with a hijacked Mac to be bothered.

The Emcees

These happen to be the most social friendly and active users on Twitter that you can’t help but interact with even when you are not a marketer yourself (me). Far from the socialites but the chatty folks you would love to be around. It goes without saying but they might just be good at what they do.

(Just to be clear, those who promise you’ll make enough loot to be able to erase the national debt by next Friday do not count here. They already got turned back at the door and their DM’s deleted.)

The Minglers

These would be the rest of the Twitterverse, a real crowd from all walks of life with something to say, composed of friends, random hellos, long lost random hellos and those who will say hello to anyone.  In other words, the big crowd is in the living room and you found a quiet space in the kitchen to hang out with new and old friends.

I’ve admitted my antisocial view of Twitter but I don’t mind. I’m pretty content sitting in the kitchen (direct access to the fridge) with my followers who I enjoy a quip with day in and day out. Truthfully, though, I don’t know where I’d be without Twitter.  Anyway, just five simple rules have gotten me this far so why change them?

1. Be positive.
2. Don’t be a jerk (note: a more PG-13 word would suffice here).
3. Talk, strike up a conversation. You can disguise your avatar if you have to.
4. Be you and only you. People somehow like that.
5. Hang out in the blogs of your followers. It’s actually quieter there.

Eureka!

So let’s hear it. Twitter introverts of the world unite and tell me your stories in a comment below. If your last name is Godin or Kawasaki complaints are welcome too!

Johnny Spence is a freelance programmer of 8 years living out in Barcelona, Spain. Have a visit at his blog, or see what he is up to on Twitter.

Illustration: Damn Cool Pics

Build your audience like your life depended on it

Welcome to Community Week on {grow} as we feature thought-provoking, original thinking from our community members. First up is  Jamie Lee Wallace, who helped me with an outstanding ROI and measurement blog series last summer …

Your business’ survival depends on your ability to build, retain, and convert an audience. Sounds simple, but the marketplace is full of distractions and prospects can be a fickle bunch.

Today’s lesson comes straight from the streets. Not the mean streets of B2B Marketing, but the cobbled streets around Boston’s Faneuil Hall where I watched a couple pros demonstrate how to get the job done in under twenty minutes.  David and Tobin are street performers and they hustle. They have to capture the attention moving targets, turn them into fans, and get them to open their wallets.

Watch and learn, people.

Step 1: Build Your Inner Circle

Before the show started, the guys made a big deal setting up their “stage” (a red rope on the ground), and arranging all their props. The minute anyone got curious and paused, David or Tobin would engage them in light banter. No big sell, no big deal – just an acknowledgment, a smile, or a quick joke. Sometimes, they’d ask the passerby to lend a hand, thus making them part of the team, or “Inner Circle.” Nine times out of ten, these people stuck around for the show.

Lesson: Don’t wait until the curtain’s about to go up. Engage your audience immediately. Build your Inner Circle. These are the people who will be your first audience members.

Step 2: Create Excitement

Once the stage was set, the guys started warming up in earnest with a few flips. The fast movement caught the eye of a few more passersby, but they usually kept walking. Here’s where that Inner Circle came into play. The guys asked those of us who were lingering to “step right up.” They drew us in tight and close. No longer just a bunch of scattered individuals, we were now a cohesive group – an audience. Now they had us make some noise. David and Toby instructed us, in a conspiratorial whisper, to whoop and holler when they announced the beginning of the show. They were completely transparent about this, saying, “If you make a lot of noise, everyone will think something really exciting is about to happen, and they’ll all come running.”

Lesson: Use your Inner Circle to build a bigger audience through social proof, word-of-mouth, and testimonials. Be clear about wanting their help and make it easy for them to step up.

Step 3: Make the Audience Part of the Show

Audience rapport is critical to conversion. An audience is just a bunch of onlookers until you make them part of the experience. David and Tobin did this by “letting us in on the joke,” pulling people from the audience to assist or even be a “star,” and keeping their banter very personal and “localized.” They weren’t tossing out canned jokes, they were riffing on what was happening in the moment with the people who were in the audience.

Lesson: Create an interaction that is genuine, personal, and relevant. Don’t be afraid to let people participate. Build trust by listening closely and adapting based on what you hear.

Step 4: Ask for the Sale

You’ve created an audience and turned them into fans, now – and only now – can you ask for the sale. David and Tobin asked for our support while balanced some forty feet up in the air on a ladder that was held steady by four audience volunteers. They explained that street performing is how they make their living. They asked if we’d had a good time and what we thought the show was worth. They joked about how they’d never gotten a $20 tip before. Without pulling out the guilt card (too much), they presented their bid for compensation. Then they added the “dare” with the $20 comment. I gave them $10 – the most I’ve ever given a street performer.

Lesson: It pays to ask, and once you’ve established a good rapport, it’s much easier to make your case and get the results you want.

Bonus Tips

David and Tobin’s act leveraged two other important, Big Idea tactics: offering entertainment and giving it away for free. As Mark has said, people want to be entertained . (Granted, street performing is entertainment, but you get the idea.) The giving-it-away strategy is explained well in David Meerman Scott’s book, World Wide Rave. Sometimes, to make money, you have to put stuff out there with no strings attached.

So, there you have it. Four simple steps to build, retain, and convert your audience. Do you leverage any of these strategies in your marketing? What could you do more of?

This post was inspired by David Graham and Tobin Renwick of the “acro-juggling” act, “The Flash.” You can catch them doing their acrobatic-juggling-comedy thing from Nevada to Scotland to Australia.

Jamie Lee Wallace provides full-service and DIY marketing solutions to entrepreneurs, start-ups, and creative types. Visit her at www.SuddenlyMarketing.com.

Illustration: Acro juggling
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