We’ve been building and running online businesses since 2007, and in that time we’ve seen a clear pattern of five crucial things you have to pay attention to if you want to succeed.
In this article, we’re going to go in-depth on these five important aspects of online business. There are certainly many more we could cover, but these five are the critical foundation pieces you need to have in place:
- Getting clear on the FOUNDATION of your business
- Fortifying the product or OFFERING you sell
- Building an ongoing PROMOTION plan to get customers
- Creating content and growing your AUDIENCE
- Evaluating the effectiveness of your WEBSITE
Great! Those are the five things we’re going to cover. However, before we move forward, this article comes with a B.F.C. (Big Fat Caveat)…
👋 Creating a successful online business doesn’t happen overnight after reading one article. You have to be willing to experiment, go through trial and error, and know that it takes time for your efforts to pay off.
(Anyone who is telling you they can help you “make 6-figs in your business in the next 14 days” is simply trying to sell you a load of hot-trash. Probably pricey hot-trash. Don’t buy expensive hot-trash, okay?)
Our goal with this article is to help you feel empowered with your business. We want you to feel less confusion and more clarity around exactly what you do, who you do it for, how you make money, and how you continue to grow a thriving business you enjoy.
Just to give you a bit more context, we’re a husband and wife team 👩🏻🦰👨🏻🦲 who have created multiple types of online businesses:
- We have 30+ online courses under our belts
- We’ve created multiple software (SaaS) products
- I was a paid public speaker for a 5-year span
- I’ve worked with over 2,000 paying sponsors
- We’ve done client work (projects ranging from $50 up to $50,000)
- We most recently run a membership/coaching program
We share that information with you so you know we aren’t regurgitating someone else’s knowledge in this article. The information you’ll read below is from our own learned experiences, hard work, mistakes, and successes along the way.
Preamble = ✅! Now let’s help you improve the five most important aspects of your online business.
Step #1 to Improving Your Online Business: Getting Clear on Your Foundation
We’ve all been guilty of starting a business and diving straight into the deep end. We have a good idea, we see a need in the market, or we just want to dabble in a side project. Before we know it, we have a domain, a website, a logo, a product or service, a paying customer or two, and then we feel overwhelmed by our daily to-dos.
Most online business owners (us, included) rarely take the time to create a SOLID business foundation. We’re going to help you do that here in Step #1 with an exercise we like to call:
The 4Q’s Foundation of Online Business
Question 1 – WHO does your business specifically help?
“If you’re trying to make something for everyone, you end up making something for no one.”
“If you’re trying to make something for everyone, you end up making something for no one.”
Variations of that quote get passed around a ton in the online biz world because it’s true. The more generic and broad your audience is, the harder it is to attract your ideal customer and prove to them you and your business are the right fit for them.
Let’s look at a BAD and GOOD example of answering the WHO question with a business “tagline”:
BAD TAGLINE – I design websites for businesses.
BETTER TAGLINE – I design websites for wellness businesses.
GREAT TAGLINE – I help yoga instructors by building beautiful websites that get them more paying customers.
The difference between the bad and good should be clear. Many online business owners don’t want to limit themselves to a smaller group of people (customers). But limitations when it comes to WHO you help are critically important.
Put yourself in the shoes (or yoga pants) of a yoga instructor who needs a new website for his/her business. Which “tagline” speaks more directly to you and your needs? Which of those taglines will make you go “oh man, that person is talking to me!”
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Answer the WHO question by writing your own business “tagline” using the formula of: I help <specific customer type> <your product or service> that get them <benefit of your product or service>.
Question 2 – WHY does your business exist?
This is your mission statement. It’s an often glossed-over part of running an online business because you can get going so quickly that you pass right by it.
This is the deeper reason why you do what you do and why your business exists in the first place.
Let’s look at a BAD and GOOD example of answering the WHY question:
BAD MISSION STATEMENT – I’m a web designer who likes designing Squarespace websites.
GOOD MISSION STATEMENT – I have experienced the healing power of yoga first-hand, which is why it’s my mission to help yoga instructors create thriving wellness businesses so more people can benefit from this transformative practice.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pumped to start my own design business that helps yoga instructors just after reading that GOOD mission statement. Pro-tip: A mission statement at the top of your business’s About Page is a great way to let your prospective customers know you’re the right fit for them.
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Answer the WHY question by writing your own mission statement: My mission is to help <specific customer type> <outcome you want for them> because <reason this personally motivates you>.
Question 3 – WHAT benefit does your business provide?
We’ve touched on this slightly already with the WHO and the WHY, but let’s make sure you’re crystal clear with your WHAT. It’s not enough to simply say, “I create beautiful websites” (for our ongoing example). You need to speak to the outcomes your customer wants for their own life and business. How will your business make their life better?
Let’s look at a BAD and GOOD example of answering the WHAT question with a benefit statement:
BAD BENEFIT STATEMENT – I’m a web designer who creates Squarespace sites for yoga instructors.
GOOD BENEFIT STATEMENT – By creating a beautiful and easy to navigate website, I help yoga instructors get more paying customers and create a stronger connection with their audience of students.
The key difference here is looking at your business from the perspective of your customer. Which person do you think a yoga instructor more wants to hire and give money to? The first example (BAD) or the second (GOOD) which speaks clearly to the outcome a yoga instructor wants?
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Answer the WHAT question by writing your benefit statement: By <specific thing you do>, I help <specific customer type> get <outcome(s) your business helps them achieve>.
Question 4 – HOW does your business provide the benefit (your offerings)?
Now, we’re going to go way deeper on your specific product or service later on in Step #2, but for gaining more clarity and strengthening your business’s foundation, let’s make sure you can concisely explain your offering(s).
Let’s look at a BAD and GOOD example of answering the HOW question:
BAD OFFERING DESCRIPTION – Website design.
GOOD OFFERING DESCRIPTION – I build beautiful and simple Squarespace websites through 3 design package tiers: A simple 1-page website starting at $500; a 5-page website starting at $1,500; and a 10+-page website starting at $2,500.
The important thing to note here is just to get clear and specific on what someone can buy from you or how they can hire you AND make the options well-defined to do so. Note: If you have a hard time being concise here, maybe that’s an indication that your customers are having a hard time understanding the complexity of what your business offers!
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Answer the HOW question by describing your offerings. There isn’t a specific formula to share here but try to be concise if you offer more than one package or option.
Alrighty, that’ll wrap up Step #1! Once you finish answering the 4Qs you can put them together in a nice recap image or PDF (if you’re feeling fancy, obviously).
Step #2 Fortify The Product or Service You’re Offering
Next, we’re going to talk about your product or service offering. We like to refer to that thing you’re trying to sell as your “castle.” Think of your castle existing on an island floating out in the middle of the ocean. Your job is to get people over on the “mainland” to know your castle exists and show them how to find your castle (and pay you!)
Before you try to get people to buy from you, you need to ask yourself: is your “castle” solid?
You already defined what your offering is in the final Q of Step #1, so that should be clear as day. These next questions are really important to answer before you pour more effort into marketing and promoting what you sell:
- Is your sales page clear and easy to read?
- Are your buying options (tiers or various products) overwhelming?
- Can YOU easily find the buy/pay button without much effort and complete the purchase process seamlessly?
Too often business owners create a services page or a sales page and because they’ve spent so much time working on it they don’t see the glaring issues with it. Once YOU feel your castle is in tip-top shape, it’s time to get a second opinion.
Send your services or sales page to a handful of potential customers or people in your industry and ask them for honest and direct feedback.
Put on your mental armor and lather up your thick skin (ew?), because the feedback you receive might sting a bit. That’s okay! You want people to point out any obvious issues with your services or sales page. You especially want this information before you invest valuable time and effort trying to get potential customers to buy from you.
🔥 HOT TIP 🔥 On average, 50% of your website traffic is going to come from a mobile device. Take a look at your services/sales page on a mobile device and ensure it’s in tip-top shape there too! It is easy to read? Is it formatted well? Is the mobile buying experience easy to use?
Think of the journey between the mainland and your castle like a broken bridge. If it’s not easy for someone to understand your services/sales page and to buy from you, you’re likely sending potential customers down a broken bridge to your castle!
Should you have multiple service/product pages or one page to rule them all?
Our vote, 99% of the time:
SEND YOUR USER TO ONE SERVICES/SALES PAGE TO RULE THEM ALL.
Why? You don’t want your potential customers to get fatigued as they click page after page around your site trying to find the service or product that fits their needs. You want to start by giving them a clear, concise overview of what you offer. THEN, if you need individual description pages to explain more about each option, you can do that, but at least you made the journey as easy as possible on your potential customer.
If you offer multiple packages or pricing options keep them together. We’ve all seen pricing boxes on websites and there’s a reason these are so common, they work!
What’s an effective sales page formula?
The formula we’ve come up with for creating great services or sales pages is called P.O.P.S.E.P.:
- P: Problem – Clearly identify the problem your customer is having
- O: Outcome – Describe the outcome you want them to have/feel
- P: Product – Share how your product/service is the solution to the problem
- S: Social Proof – Add testimonials and quotes from people you’ve helped
- E: Examples – Show your portfolio pieces, product walkthroughs, etc
- P: Purchase – Make the ability to purchase from you as seamless as possible*
*Additional note for the Purchase section: Whether you’re using multiple package boxes or not, don’t forget to remind someone why they are buying from you right next to the buy button. Reiterate the problem you are solving and the outcome you’ll deliver to your customer.
Here’s a video lesson taken from a program we include in our Un-Boring Group Coaching Program where we go further in-depth about creating a great sales/services page:
We would highly recommend building your services or sales page using the P.O.P.S.E.P. formula. As a reminder, we’ve sold many products and services over the years and made good money doing it. We have the experience and the data to back us up.
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Go through your current services/sales page and apply the P.O.P.S.E.P. formula to it. Make sure your packages or buying options are easy to understand. Then, share this page with colleagues for feedback (and test everything on mobile!)
Step #3 Your Online Business Needs Promotion
The foundation is set and your offering castle is now strong and just waiting for customers. But, how do they get to your castle? How does someone find out about your offering?
When it comes to promoting your online business, the strategy we often refer to is called “marketing bridges.”
What the heck is a “marketing bridge?” Simply put, a “marketing bridge” is what takes someone from a stranger to your business to a paying customer. It’s the journey they go on from discovering you exist to then paying you money. You have to build that bridge brick by brick to lead someone down the path to your castle.
Marketing bridges come in many different shapes and sizes for online businesses
Think of a marketing bridge as a journey to help guide your potential customer from the mainland to your castle. As much as we’d like to tell you that slapping a B.F.B.B. (Big Fat Buy Button) on your website’s homepage is enough, 99.9999% of the time it’s not.
A solid marketing bridge takes someone down a path:
- It identifies a problem or a need a customer has
- It delivers a solution or helpful content around solving the problem/need
- It creates trust, authority, and credibility for you and your business
- It offers a paid solution to the problem/need
- If the customer isn’t ready to buy, it bridges them to an ongoing content strategy
What are some examples of marketing bridges for online businesses, you ask?
🕵🏻♀️ FURTHER READING 🕵🏻♂️ For the sake of keeping this article from becoming as long as a Harry Potter book, we’re not going to go into great detail on all 13 of our marketing bridge examples here because we do that in this article right here!
We’ve compiled a list of 13 marketing bridges we’ve used over the years. There are likely many more to choose from but we’re sharing our specific marketing experiences. Feel free to click any of them to read more about each:
- 📧 #1: The “Newsletter” Marketing Bridge
- ☎️ #2: The “Consultation” Marketing Bridge
- 🧲 #3: The “Lead Magnet” Marketing Bridge
- 📬 #4: The “Email Course” Marketing Bridge
- 💪🏼 #5: The “Epic Post to E-Book” Marketing Bridge
- 👀 #6: The “Fly On The Wall” Marketing Bridge
- 🙋🏻♀️ #7: The “Quiz” Marketing Bridge
- 🤝 #8: The “Partnership” Marketing Bridge
- 👨👩👦👦 #9: The “Group Challenge” Marketing Bridge
- 🖥 #10: The “Workshop” Marketing Bridge
- 🎥 #11: The “Video Series” Marketing Bridge
- 💡 #12: The “Free Trial” Marketing Bridge
- 😱 #13: The “Cool Microsite” Marketing Bridge
We DO want to touch on two different marketing bridges in this article, so let’s look at an example for a service-based/freelancer business (like a web designer) and digital product business (like an online course creator).
Marketing Bridge Example for Freelancers: ☎️ The “Consultation” Bridge
The concept: The “Consultation” marketing bridge is almost a must-have if you are a freelancer and are trying to get more clients. It can also work for digital product businesses that sell high-valued offerings too. Either way, the concept is that you hop on a 1-on-1 call with a prospective customer and discuss how your services (or products) can solve their problems.
How the “Consultation” marketing bridge works:
- You have traffic coming to your website →
- You have a contact form or calendar scheduler on your website →
- You have the 1-on-1 consultation call →
- You send follow-up pitch emails that sell your product/service →
- Your consultation call is the bridge and the pitch emails continue the journey to your castle!
Why this marketing bridge works: When you’re directly creating something custom for someone (ex: a Squarespace site for a yoga instructor) they want to know you are the right fit. This is where having the 4Qs answers (from Step #1) becomes incredibly helpful! This marketing bridge also works because it shows more effort than most people want to expend these days.
How to take this marketing bridge one step further: Want to add more pizzazz to this marketing bridge and potentially increase its effectiveness? Before having someone fill out a contact form or calendar scheduler, have them download a helpful PDF or have them opt-in to a short series of emails (two other types of marketing bridges). THEN offer the ability to do a consultation call with you, as this creates a more engaged and interested customer.
Our experience with this bridge: We haven’t worked as freelancers for many years but we have used consultation calls to sell digital products in the $1,000 – $2,000 range. When we used to offer client services, consultation calls were a critical part of the marketing process. The key with this marketing bridge is to have the consultation call sign-up process as efficient and straightforward as possible. And while the call itself is important, the follow-up pitch emails are where the final move across the marketing bridge and into your offering castle will happen!
Marketing Bridge Example for Online Course Creators: 📬 The “Email Course” Marketing Bridge
The concept: The “Email Course” marketing bridge is simple in concept. You send a series of emails around your offering topic and you soft sell in those emails, along with emails at the end of the sequence that are a sales pitch. Free email courses can take a good amount of experimentation (read: trial and a good amount of error) to get it converting people to paying customers.
How the “Email Course” marketing bridge works:
- You have traffic coming to your website →
- You offer a free email course to teach someone how to solve a problem →
- The email course gets sent out over a series of days →
- The individual email course emails can pitch your offering →
- You pitch your offering at the end of the email course →
- (Additionally: The potential customer gets added to your email newsletter) →
- Your email course is the bridge and your emails continue the journey to your castle!
Why this marketing bridge works: You probably aren’t a stranger to online courses but what most people don’t tell you is they can be hard to sell in the beginning (heck, even later on too!) The free email course marketing bridge works because it specifically shows HOW you teach and WHY you are the right person to learn from. If your potential customer gets a lot of value from the free email course, they’re extremely likely to buy your paid online course.
Our experience with this bridge: We absolutely love free email courses and think they are a solid way to build a lot of trust with your potential customers (from the mainland!) Over a few days you can help your potential customer solve problems around your email course topic and then show them how your offering speeds that process up or does some/all of the work for them. Email courses work well because they tend to be a great way to generate passive income (once you’ve tested out different emails, pitches, sales pages, etc).
👩🏻🦰 TRY US OUT 👨🏻🦲 If you want to sign up for one of our free email courses, check out Discover Your Differentiator, a free 7 lesson course designed to help you create more authentic branding by defining your Brand DNA, your ideal audience and your Brand Mission.
Marketing can feel like an overwhelming part of the online business process but it doesn’t have to be.
We’ve just given you a list of 13 different marketing ideas you can implement in your own business. There’s no guaranteed success with any of them but we have a sinking suspicion you haven’t tried 13 different marketing ideas in the past year.
Invest time each month in a new marketing tactic and see what bears the most fruit for you business!
Step #4 Creating a Content Marketing Plan and Growing Your Audience
Slow, steady, and imperfect wins the audience growth race.
Since 2014 we’ve used an incredibly simple content marketing plan that’s helped us build highly engaged audiences that purchase from us. That plan involves:
- Email List Building/Marketing
- Helpful Written Articles (like this one)
- Some Social Media
We 100% believe in the methodology of slow, steady, and imperfect wins the audience growth race.
Notice, we’re not saying “large” or “sizable” when describing our audience.
You might be shocked to learn that our email list has hovered around the 10,000 subscriber mark for years and our website traffic barely tips 50,000 visitors per month. But that amount of email subscribers and website traffic is enough to have us bring in (the coveted) multiple 6-figures* per year.
*Editor’s 👨🏻🦲note: Including this mention of our business income is not meant to brag or gloat. Unpopular opinion perhaps, but we don’t think you have to hit that coveted “6-fig” mark for your business to be deemed valuable or impressive. A successful business is one that makes enough money for you to do work you enjoy while living a satisfying life. We only share our results to reinforce that we’ve had financial success with very relatable and achievable audience numbers. We’re not JUST about money around here, but we acknowledge cash is oxygen for a business.
If you’re looking for a fast-track plan to skyrocket your audience growth overnight, you won’t find it here, friend. And honestly, unless you’re shelling out 💰💰💰on paid advertising (i.e. Facebook Ads), there is no overnight growth strategy other than sheer dumb luck.
Our (proven) content marketing plan to grow the RIGHT online business audience involves… salads. (Wait, WHAT?)
Because we love metaphors, we’re going to share our content marketing and audience growth strategy by talking about salads. Did we say, salads?? Yes, salads 🥗.
Part 1 of the Content Salad: Foundation Articles
Foundation articles are the base of your content strategy, the lettuce of your salad. These are 8-10 searchable and helpful articles on your website that are related to your product/service topic. These articles help you build organic (search) traffic, attracting your ideal customer based on the problems they’re trying to solve.
About 70% of our website traffic here at Wandering Aimfully comes from organic search. In 2019, that 70% number equated to over 340,000 people! Those people are searching for an answer to a problem (mostly in Google) and clicking on an article we’ve written to find the answer.
It’s important to note that we aren’t SEO experts, but we do consider ourselves good at writing imperfect articles that help people based on our experiences and knowledge. We employ a few basic SEO practices, but those can literally be summed up in a few bullet points:
- Write an article on a specific topic around your product that helps your ideal audience.
- In that article, choose the main keyword or phrase that someone would search to have your article come up as the search result.
- Make sure your keyword/phrase is prominently featured in the articles headings (H1, H2, H3).
- Continue to tweak and improve (aka optimize) your articles over time.
- Share and promote your articles in places where your ideal audience hangs out.
- Be patient. Getting organic search traffic can take as long as 12-18 months.
That’s it. That’s our SEO strategy and it’s one we’ve used for over 400+ articles since 2014. We even used it on this article.
🕵🏻♀️ FURTHER READING 🕵🏻♂️ If you want to read everything we know and have learned about SEO, we have just the article for you. We’ve never paid an SEO specialist. We’ve never taken an SEO course. We’ve simply learned the SEO basics and implemented them over the years which has led to organic traffic growth. You can do the same thing!
Now, let’s address a couple of common questions as it relates to writing foundation articles…
🤔 How long should my foundation articles be? As long as it takes to help the reader have their problem solved. Word count doesn’t matter as long as you write from your own experience and are helpful (plus, you can always update/optimize later!)
🤔 What if I hate sitting down to write articles? If you’re not good at “sitting in the chair” then pull up a Google Doc and use the dictation 🎙feature. Pretend you are speaking directly to a friend and trying to help them. Then, go through the dictation transcript and turn your recorded words into an article that can read by your target customer.
🤔 Should I just hire a writer to write for me? Maybe… If a writer you can hire has the experience related to your product topic, sure. But, you shouldn’t hire a random VA to compile an article based on other articles they find. You need to share your unique experience and lessons to truly stand out. You SHOULD hire a VA to help with copyediting and article structure if you feel lacking in those areas.
🤔 What if I already have a bunch of articles on my site, what should I do? Most likely, you need to do a content audit. Our latest content audit was in 2018 and we went from 400+ articles whittled down to ~120 articles. We wrote about our entire content audit experience here if you want to read more.
🤔 What platform will give me the BEST chance at ranking Google? WordPress? Squarespace? The platform DOES. NOT. MATTER. Let us repeat: The platform does not matter. What matters is writing helpful articles that solve a problem for your customer and following a simple SEO strategy like we’ve outlined above.
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Create a list of 8-10 foundational article topics and publish them! Don’t know what the heck to write about? Here are two tips for you: 1) Use the Google Search autofill technique. Whatever keyword or phrase encompasses what you sell/do, start typing that into Google Search and see what searches autofill – this is a great way to identify what things people are already searching for that you can write. 2) Fill in the sentence “I want to help you…” As it relates to what you do, write that sentence out 8-10 times based on how your product or service can help someone.
Part 2 of the Content Salad: Consistent Content Creation (Email, Podcast, Video, etc)
We call Part 2 the “fixins.” These are all the black olives, croutons, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, did we mention croutons yet?? Fixins are the ongoing serialized content you create to build trust and connection. They’re the pieces of content you publish consistently to build trust with your audience (or to attract new people!)
Fixin Item 1️⃣ Email Newsletter (MOST IMPORTANT!)
Over 90% of our revenue is directly tied to our email newsletter.
This is priority #1 for us and has been for nearly a decade. Sending out consistent and helpful email newsletters may seem like a thing of the past but boy-oh-boy do we disagree. We generate over 90% of our revenue directly from our weekly email newsletter.
We strongly believe in consistent email newsletters because:
- Email inbox algorithms don’t change like social media algorithms do. Plus, average email open rates are in the 20-30% range. Social media viewership is in the 3-5% range (if you’re lucky!)
- Email newsletters don’t take a lot of technical know-how and some of our favorite email lists we subscribe to are simply people sharing their lives and experiences each week.
- Email inboxes are still somewhat sacred places for people and can create a strong connection by delivering valuable or entertaining content on a weekly basis.
Sending out a weekly email newsletter is almost non-negotiable for us and has been for many years. Sure, we’ve missed a week here or there, but with only a few exceptions, we’ve been sending out Monday weekly emails for the better part of 7 years. Especially in the beginning, we tried to hit send on an email newsletter every week no matter what (plus, getting 3-4 weeks ahead of your writing schedule helps!)
Our email strategy is very simple: Be consistent. Be helpful. Be entertaining and fun where possible. Don’t be afraid to sell but don’t ONLY sell to people.
Fixin Item 2️⃣ Podcasting
It’s no secret that podcasts are continuing to grow in popularity. Where Serial paved the way for the masses to embrace podcasts, online business owners have been doing some form of podcasting for a long time.
Nowadays, it’s never been easier to spin up a podcast. The problem is, most people don’t follow a couple of simple rules when starting a podcast:
- It’s not about YOU: Your podcast needs to be about your customers and solving problems for them. Instead of creating a podcast called “The Jason Zook Show” create a podcast called “Building Your Yoga Business.” You can talk about your personal life and your experiences on a show that doesn’t have your name in the title but you want to really attract a listener based on the title and what they expect the podcast to do for them.
- Consistency, is again, key: If you only record 3 podcast episodes and then disappear for 6 months guess what happens? Everyone forgets your podcast exists. Try to make your podcast something easy to batch create (multiple episodes recorded at one time) and don’t overdo the production early on.
- Podcasts aren’t amazing for discoverability: Most online business podcasts are fueled by existing audiences (email lists, blog readers, social followers, etc). Sure, some folks see their podcasts gain a lot of organic traction but they are the exception, not the norm. Understand this fact and decide if podcasting is right for your current situation.
🕵🏻♀️ FURTHER READING 🕵🏻♂️ We put together a Starting A Podcast guide that walks through all the details of podcasting. It includes how to structure a good show, why or why not to interview guests, what gear to use, and a strategy for getting early traction in the New & Noteworthy section of Apple Podcasts.
Fixin Item 3️⃣ Video
Spoiler Alert: For most people, creating videos may simply be too overwhelming. The tech involved is tough. The awkwardness on camera is hard to get past. But, if you do want to dabble in creating videos we have some thoughts for you (I’ve personally created over 2,000 videos in my time, and no, that’s not a typo).
🎬 Be yourself. This may sound like extremely simple advice, but people can tell when watching videos if you’re trying to be the next Casey Neistat (or whoever is popular on YouTube these days). Sure, take a nod from the pros, but find your own voice and your own unique video style.
🎥Good lighting and good audio go a LONG way. Sure, having a compelling story arc and visually interesting footage in your video is helpful but if your lighting and your audio are crap, people are going to X out of your video faster than you can spell video. This doesn’t mean you need to buy the fanciest gear, it simply means you need to find a good source of natural light to sit in front of if you film yourself or your subject matter and you need a quality microphone (we recommend and use this ~$75 lav mic from RODE).
😬Embrace imperfection. My early videos are awwwwwful. Just terrible and hard to watch. Yours will be too! Everyone starts out crappy when it comes to video. Know this. Accept it. Hit record, edit, and publish. Then move on.
This fixin is probably the one that most people won’t dabble in and that’s okay. You need to pick the fixins that are right for you and ones you can consistently stick with!
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Decide what fixins are right for you and your situation. Is it a weekly email newsletter and a bi-weekly podcast? Is it a weekly newsletter and a monthly video on YouTube? Or is it a combination of the three? We believe a consistent email newsletter is critical, but the other fixins are optional.
Part 3 of the Content Salad: The Dressing (Social Media)
A content strategy that starts with social media is like a building a salad by pouring dressing on the plate. You’d never put lettuce and fixins on TOP of dressing and try to eat it that way. You need the foundation of your salad first, THEN your fixins, THEN your dressing (social media) goes on top.
If you’re running an online business, where you sell a product or service, you’ve probably already created social media accounts. Heck, it was probably one of the first things you did and our assumption is that you probably spend time on social media each week without having a consistent email newsletter and foundation articles. That’s OKAY, but we want to remind you that you are trying to run a business, not just grow a social media following.
You can’t pay your rent/mortgage with a bunch of social media followers.
Using social media is a great way to grab attention where your audience is hanging out AND direct them back to your foundation content or to a marketing bridge.
We believe a few things about using social media:
- Reinforce your brand values/messaging: There’s a reason you follow the people you follow and it’s because they continually talk about something you enjoy or align with.
- Be useful (give people a reason to follow): Aim to solve problems, share ideas, or be a source of inspiration.
- Be a springboard to other content/marketing bridges: Use social content as a guidepost to your marketing and try to turn those fleeting viewers into email subscribers!
- Connect with your audience: Remember the “social” part of this. It’s not just about posting and being a one-way street of communication.
Social media is the dressing on your content marketing and audience growth salad. It’s definitely something that can make a salad taste WAYYY better but you have to get the other parts of the salad right first.
A couple of questions you may be thinking as it relates to using social media to grow your online business…
🤔 What social media sites should I be using? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest Snapchat, TikTok, the list goes on and on. The key answer here is: Where does your ideal audience spend their time AND where do you want to spend yours? Even if your audience is on Twitter, maybe you don’t like Twitter, then you shouldn’t use it. That’s like forcing yourself to eat a caesar salad when you hate… caesar salads. Pick the platform you can most enjoy and that your audience exists on.
🤔 How often should I post on social media? We’d vote for creating a posting schedule that you can stick with and that matches the platform’s natural ebb and flow. For Instagram, you don’t need to post every single day. For Twitter, posting every day makes more sense. We don’t use Facebook, so we’re no help there. Ideally, you’ll have some understanding of the platform and you can build a schedule for posting content that works for you.
🤔 What the heck content should I even be posting? Ahhh, this is a GREAT question but it’s also a tough one. We like to think of social media channels as a great way to disseminate micro-content from our weekly email newsletter, our foundation articles, and our marketing bridges. What tips, sentences, phrases, takeaways, key learnings, lessons, and stories stand out from the content you’re already creating? Use those as fodder for social media content and you should never run out of ideas!
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Give yourself permission to not be on ALL the social media channels. For us, we essentially only focus on Instagram. We like the experience, our ideal audience hangs out on IG, and that works for us. Pick the social channel that’s right for you and focus on being consistent and helpful.
Reminder: Every piece of content becomes part of your bigger plan to get people to find the product or service you sell
Remember who you are creating content for. While it may be fun for you to sit down and write a blog post about the gluten-free bread recipe you discovered last week, does that serve your ideal customer and their needs?
We’re not saying don’t have hobbies and don’t create content around your life. But as it relates to your business, follow the plan we’ve laid out here FIRST and then layer in additional content.
Your audience will grow the longer you show up for them consistently.
This is a fact. We’ve watched it happen for our businesses and our friends’ businesses around us. Sure, it may take a bit longer than you want to get consistent traffic and audience growth but this strategy works.
Step #5 Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Website
You may be utterly shocked that we haven’t talked about your website (with exception to your services/sales page) up until Step #5. There’s a reason for that. Most people START by creating their website but don’t have a solid foundation of the previous steps we’ve outlined to make their website actually work on their behalf.
Your online business’ website exists to help you hit your business goals. If it’s not helping you hit your goals, what’s the point in having it at all?
🔍 Website Home Page Evaluation: The Clarity Test
The big question you should be asking yourself is: How effective is my current home page at serving my business goals?
To answer this question, we’re going to bring our friend “4Qs” back around but adjust the questions slightly as it relates to evaluating the effectiveness of your current website’s homepage.
When a new visitor lands on your home page, they should be able to quickly answer these 4 key questions:
Question 1 – What do you do?
At a quick glance at your home page, is it easy for someone to understand what the heck you do? A potential customer browsing your website’s home page should be able to put you in a mental bucket relatively easily.
One key mistake we see with people’s home pages is they use confusing phrases to describe what they do. We like to call describing what you do your two-word tango 💃. Let’s look at an example:
BAD TWO-WORD TANGO – Website Whisperer
GOOD TWO-WORD TANGO – Squarespace Designer
YOU may think saying something “Website Whisperer” is cute and adds personality, but your ideal customer may have no clue what that means. Can you use cute ways to describe what you do? YES… but only after it’s made very clear. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer who doesn’t know your world inside and out.
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Make sure you’re answering the question, what do you do? clearly on your home page using a two-word tango (pro-tip: it can be 2-4 words). Make your two-word tango extremely obvious to understand.
Question 2 – Are you for me?
When a potential customer lands on the home page of your website, the very top portion of your website should IMMEDIATELY answer the question they’re thinking: Are you for me?
Your potential customer should be able to recognize they are in the right place and that you can help solve their problems.
This question relates back to the WHO question from Step #1. We can reuse it here and this tagline should be at the top of your home page:
BAD TAGLINE – I design websites for businesses.
GOOD TAGLINE – I help yoga instructors build beautiful websites that get them more paying customers.
We’ve already explained why the GOOD example is better, but can you see how placing this at the top of your website will also help your customers know that you are the right fit for them?
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Are you currently answering the question, are you for me? at the very top of your website’s home page? Make sure your audience is clear and obvious!
Question 3 – How can you help me?
The outcome you can deliver to your potential client/customer should also be front and center on your home page. In an ideal world, you are answering this question in the same sentence as the are you for me? question.
Avoid using vague phrases that don’t mean anything. Things like:
- ❌I’ll help you grow your brand
- ❌I’ll help you market yourself better
- ❌I’ll help you work smarter
Instead, write the extremely specific outcomes you can help them achieve:
- ✅I’ll help you book more yoga students by designing a cohesive brand presence
- ✅I’ll help you create email marketing and text message marketing strategies to convert and engage customers
- ✅I’ll help you double your client bookings
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Avoid vague outcome statements and be as clear and specific as you can so that your potential client/customer knows you are going to help them!
Question 4 – What is my next step?
It should be painfully obvious what you want your potential customer to do on the home page of your website. Think of this as highlighting your marketing bridge (from Step #3!)
The call-to-action you want someone to take shouldn’t be hidden or stuffed down at the bottom of your home page, and it might even need to be repeated on the home page depending on the length of it.
You may have seen on our home page there’s only ONE button you click on the entire page:
We did some testing in 2019 with a longer home page and a shorter home page. We found the shorter home page led to a drastically higher conversion to getting people into our marketing bridge (a free quiz). Don’t be afraid to test your assumptions about shorter or longer home page designs and let the data tell you what works best!
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ What is the ONE ACTION (marketing bridge) someone should be taking on your home page? Do not overwhelm people with multiple actions if at all possible.
🔺 Website Home Page Evaluation: Site Objectives Pyramid
Online business websites should follow a straightforward 3-objectives approach that involves primary, secondary, and tertiary objectives.
Important note about your primary business objective: You must CHOOSE HARD. Pick a primary audience. Focus on one product or service. (You’re likely already doing this because you’ve done everything in Steps #1 and #2, right??)
As shown in the image above, we believe your objectives should be as follows:
- Primary Website Objective: SALES
- ⬆️Secondary Website Objective: LEADS
- ⏫Tertiary Website Objective: TRUST/AUTHORITY
Site Objectives Pyramid Example: Wandering Aimfully 👩🏻🦰👨🏻🦲
We’re going to reverse the order of listing out our 3 objectives so you can see how they lead into one another…
Tertiary Objective (TRUST/AUTHORTY): We share helpful content (articles/podcast) to build authority. We embrace our personality/uniqueness to build trust.
When people find our home page, if we’ve done our job with our Tertiary Objective, it ushers them into…
Secondary Objective (LEADS): Enter your email for our Free Business Blindspot Quiz marketing bridge.
If our website 4Qs have spoken to our ideal person, they get into our marketing bridge, and then…
Primary Objective (SALES): Buy our Un-Boring Group Coaching Program!
BOOM! Our website goal has been met if all goes to plan!
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Write out your 3 site objectives as we’ve shown for our own biz. By putting them in order of tertiary → secondary → primary, are you able to see how your website’s home page can more effectively help you reach your goals?
🧙♂️ Website Home Page Evaluation: APSOSA Framework
If you are utterly confused about exactly what you should put on your website’s home page, we have a framework for you! We call this the APSOSA Framework and it’s led by our wizarding friend, Webineezer!
You want to be able to identify who you’re talking to and they need to immediately recognize themselves in your copy of your home page.
Speak to the problem that your audience currently has. Remind them what they’re struggling with.
This is where you tell them the solution to their problem, but you position YOUR offering as that solution.
This is where you describe how their life will be better on the other side of buying from you/working with you. Paint a picture of the future they could have.
This is how you stand out from the sea of other websites they’ll check out that same day. How can you be memorable? How can you add your authenticity?
Make it clear what the MOST important action you want them to take is. Be clear about what’s waiting for them on the other side and make it compelling.
If your website’s home page only does those six things, you will hit your website objectives. In fact, we’d say your home page shouldn’t do much more than those six things because anything else probably belongs on other pages of your site (About Page, etc).
🕵🏻♀️ FURTHER READING 🕵🏻♂️ It probably won’t surprise you at this point to know we have an entire additional article that dives deeper into applying our APSOSA Framework to your website’s home page. That article includes a walkthrough video where we redesign one of our coaching member’s home page using APSOSA.
⚡️ACTION STEP ⚡️ Apply the APSOSA Framework to your current home page. Does it meet the six requirements? If you’re not sure, send your home page to a colleague or ideal customer and ask them if it meets the six criteria.
The Wrap-Up Dance: You now know the 5-step checklist to improve every aspect of your online business
You made it through all five critical steps of fortifying your online business! We know this has given you a LOT to think about. But we also hope that by putting all of these crucial components together in one epic post, you have a central location that acts as a roadmap for how to improve every single aspect of your business.
We guarantee if you go through each of these important aspects and take the action steps we listed out for you, you WILL see an improvement in subscribers, and ultimately, customers.
We know it’s not the “silver bullet” that other entrepreneurs might promise you, but remember…you don’t want to buy expensive hot-trash. 😉
Focus on the foundation, take it one step at a time, and watch your business grow. Now, before you click away, remember not to commit a business FOPAW 😜(get it?? it’s the phrase “faux pas” but in the acronym of the 5 steps?? you get it.):
- Get clear on the Foundation of your business
- Fortify the product or Offering you sell
- Build an ongoing Promotion plan to get customers
- Create content and grow your Audience
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your Website