The second day of the marketing course covered several areas including: the creation of a good press release; how to get free PR; establishing joint ventures; and Internet marketing.
All of the material was of a high standard and well thought out and I really enjoyed the whole course. Much of the useful information was given with case studies from the presenter's actual clients along with little stories and small details that really showed in depth how an interesting idea can be worked out in a real life business.
As with most areas of business, and indeed life in general, most of the good advice is actually just well thought out common sense. This is not a get-rich-quick style scheme and you left the course with a marketing plan for your business covering actions to take over the next few months.
I doubt that anything presented was actually completely new to the world of marketing but when you're starting out from ground zero, as I am, it was a great way to learn how to create a proper marketing plan and a systematic approach. No more random ideas that you try out, instead you're deliberately dedicating time to a proper plan.
Here is a link to his website Chris Cardell and I suggest you sign up to his newsletter that will give you some free tips for the first few weeks. Of course, he uses all this own tips and advice in marketing his own website!
Too Good to be True
If an advertising outlet, such as a trade magazine, contacted you and offered the oppourtunity to reach a group of people interested in your product, would you be interested? They also provide a guarantee so you only pay if the people actually express an interest in your offering. Of course you would think this is great. In reality it never happens, you try getting MSDN magazine to guarantee a response to your advert!
But just imagine if you could get that kind of deal. No more spending a lump sum on a magazine advert with no idea if it really does get to the people you are interested in. No idea if they actually show an interest by visiting your website. That is the difference between pay-per-click advertising and traditional trade magazine adverts.
So the first strategy for Internet marketing is to ensure that you direct your target audience to your website using pay-per-click on Google. Of course, using the advice from the previous marketing post you would start very small and carefully. You would start by using a small daily budget and keep split testing your advert.
You should always have two versions of your advert on Google that differ by only one small detail. For example, your first advert is in traditional English format and your second is identical except you use capital letters at the start of each word. Even such a small detail can make a big difference to the click through rate.
After a few days you compare the click through rates of both adverts and then throw away the worst performer. Then you create another new advert and vary it from your best advert so far by just one factor. By constantly varying just one small detail you are constantly trying to improve the click through rate.
This is important because how high up your advert appears is dependant not just on how much your willing to spend on the advert but also the number of click throughs. About 50% of the ranking is determined by the click through rate and so pushing this up higher will save money and improve the number of visitors to your site.
You should make a strong effort to get the email address of every visitor to your website. Not because you want to spam them, because we all know how annoying that is, but because it is much harder to get a completely new customer than communicate and sell to an existing one.
If you offer a demo version of your product get the visitors email and send them a link to download it, rather than just giving the link straight away. Then you can follow up in the future. After a few days you can ask the potential customer for their feedback.
At the very least this is useful in finding out what features are missing or putting off the visitors from buying. That is great information for helping you to improve your product. Asking existing customers what they think of the product is less useful because it obviously already meets their needs, otherwise they would not have bought it! But getting feedback from those that almost bought the product is of fantastic value and almost impossible to get from any other means.
Of course you can also use the emails to send them special offers in the future so they do not miss out on new products you release or temporary price reductions. I would also suggest that you ensure it is easy for them to unsubscribe and never give their email to any other organisation. You're trying to establish a good quality relationship with them.
If you do not have a demo or trial download then think about creating some useful information to give away for free. Give them a report or set of articles that has value to them and would entice them to supply an email address for them to be delivered. The key point is you have to give them something of real value in return for them being willing to let you communicate with them. The more value you can supply then the more likely they are to take you seriously and be interested in reading your other emails.
Before the course I had already heard of software to handle lists of subscribers. Just the sort of software needed to automate the process as described above. But I did not realise how easy it was to setup an auto responder for email marketing.
For example, your website visitor is interested in your product and would like to download the demo to test it out. So they enter their email address and press the Submit button. Their email address is automatically added to an email list and they immediately get a auto response email with instructions on how to download the demo.
The clever part is that the auto responder is set up to automatically send a follow up email to them after a certain number of days. So you configure the list to send a second email two days latter asking them to fill in a simple online feedback form to let you know what they think of the trial product.
Then after another two days you could send them a free article that describes more advanced features that they would then be able to make use of, now they are more familiar with the software. Finally you might then send a last email 10 days after the original download and offer them a 10% discount if they buy in the next week.
This sequence of emails and the delay between them is set up by you and then just works without any intervention. If you have 1000 requests for the download each month can you imagine the work involved in doing that manually? Crazy. But with an auto responder costing maybe $100 to buy it all happens completely automatically.
Automation, The microISV Friend
The technology behind an auto responder is of course trivial but it is the fact you can automate the process that is so useful to us microISV businesses. Working on your own or maybe just in your spare time you have to automate absolutely everything that you can. Time is the one thing we do not have much off. (As well as money or enough customers!)
It does not get much better than the following in terms of marketing...
Let pay-per-click gather new visitors
Let your website gain their interest
Let the download page gather the email address
Let the auto responder communicate with the visitor
Let a third party handle the ecommerce sale
You sit at your computer and write the code and the automated system handles the majority of the heavy lifting. Of course you need to spend some time each week keeping an eye on the system and tweaking it to gain the best results.
Too Good to be True
Just think, one night you will be fast asleep and someone on the opposite side of the world will travel through the entire automated system and buy your software. Now imagine you had told someone 10 or 15 years ago about this scenario. Add into the mix that you have almost no budget to spend and you only had to sit in your study, what would they say? They would say it was too good to be true.
Now tell me the Internet is not amazing!