Thursday, December 21, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
Thursday, December 14, 2017 by Kevin Wood
7 Successful Entrepreneurs Who Got Started OnlineAs an online entrepreneur, you can always benefit from more inspiration and motivation. As Tony Robbins says, “success leaves clues.” By looking at and learning from the successes of others we can all shorten our success curves and reach our goals much faster. Below we profile seven top online entrepreneurs who have excelled across a range of industries. All of the people listed below have built successful online businesses from scratch, all while teaching their audiences everything they know.
1. Tim FerrissTim Ferriss rocketed to the top of the entrepreneurial charts with the success of his book The Four Hour Workweek. He’s one of the big reasons that a lot of people have taken the plunge into online entrepreneurship to being with. His blog is filled with practical advice about the path of entrepreneurship along with various personal growth and life optimization topics. He also hosts a super popular podcast called the Tim Ferriss Show, which is equally valuable. Whether you’re looking for ways you can improve your life, or want to learn insider secrets about success in business and life, he’s someone worth following.
2. Pat FlynnThe goal of Pat Flynn’s work is to help other people create passive-income driven online businesses. Along with being a published author, he runs the Smart Passive Income blog and related podcast. He’s truly one of the most helpful bloggers in the online space and shares the nitty gritty details of everything he does, so you can achieve the same levels of success. His blog features a huge supply of wisdom about starting your own online business, along with a series of courses and other goodies.
3. Marie ForleoMarie Forleo runs an online powerhouse of inspiration and business wisdom. Dubbed a thought leader of the next generation by Oprah, Marie knows what she’s talking about. Her work caters to people looking to build a passion-filled business and a passion-filled life. She offers a variety of educational materials on Marie TV and her blog, including a variety of courses dedicated to starting an online business you love. If you’ve been looking for a steady supply of inspiration that’ll help you level up your life and business, then start by consuming all the free content Marie’s put out.
4. Andrew WarnerAndrew Warner is a successful online entrepreneur who turned his sights on towards entrepreneurial education. He currently runs the site Mixergy where he inspires budding entrepreneurs with passion and know-how, that they can then take and apply to their businesses. For more on their mission, check out this page and scroll to the bottom. It's pretty inspiring stuff. If you’re looking to learn from a wide variety of successful mentors, then Mixergy is an incredible place to start. You’ll encounter a wide range of entrepreneurs you can learn from, so you'll be sure to get some takeaways that apply to your own niche.
5. Nathan ChanNathan Chan runs Foundr, which started as a small digital entrepreneur magazine and has since grown into a media empire. Foundr offers a wide range of courses, content, podcast interviews, and a lot more that are all oriented to help you start and grow a profitable business. Foundr is unique in that it caters to entrepreneurs of all levels, from those with nothing but the burning desire to start a business, all the way up to established business owners. As an online entrepreneur, your education should never stop, and Foundr is an excellent resource to keep by your side every step of the way.
6. Joanna PennJoanna Penn runs the site The Creative Penn, where she teaches budding writers how to create their own writing empires. If you’re a writer at heart, then her work can help you establish a profitable and fulfilling career as an author or blogger. There are tons of resources out there to help take you from struggling to profitable, and Penn's resources are some of the best. Whether you’re looking to grow your career as a fiction or nonfiction writer, you’ll find something for you. Another unique thing about her work is the focus on mindset. As any kind of entrepreneur, your mindset will make or break your success. By focusing on optimizing your mindset, you’ll make the path to achieving your dreams much more likely and a lot more enjoyable.
7. Glen AllsoppGlen Allsopp is probably best known for his blog Viperchill, which provides cutting-edge blogging, online marketing, and SEO advice. However, he also runs a six-figure marketing agency and a variety of other projects like Detailed.com. The core of his work is to cut through the noise of online marketing and provide you with techniques that actually work. He also regularly shares niche ideas and advice of how he would approach creating new websites and online companies. If you’re just getting started online and the thought of running a profitable website excites you, then his work is definitely worth checking out.
ConclusionHopefully, some of the individuals above have peaked your interest. The list above is by no means a definitive list, but instead a jumping off point to find new industry leaders that you can learn from and help your business grow. Who are some of your favorite online successes you turn to for valuable insight and inspiration? Please share in the comments below.
Monday, December 4, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
9 Tips for Enjoying Success With Your E-commerce SiteStarting an online store is a business decision and a bit of a leap of faith. Will your carefully researched target audience respond to your offers? Will customers buy what you think they'll buy, as often as you expect they will? Will your order, checkout, and shipping processes run smoothly? Will customer reviews boost or tank your online reputation? There's no single formula for online store success, but there are some best practices that can raise your chances of success. Here are nine of the many things successful online stores do, and why they matter.
1. They make their stores easy to navigate on smartphones.By now almost every online store has some features to make it smartphone-user friendly. But that just means the bar for a great mobile user experience is now higher. One of the best and easiest-to-use mobile retail sites is BlueNile.com. The heavily visual menu and build-your-own ring tools make it easy for users to pick up a $5,000 pair of diamond stud earrings or build a custom $42,000 engagement ring while they're waiting for the train or taking a lunch break. I was able to create a fabulous looking diamond solitaire ring to my specs for next day delivery in under two minutes. That ease of use is something shoppers are coming to expect in every store. For a store that sells high-value items as Blue Nile does, it's a must.
2. They suggest other products shoppers may like in real time on the site.Product recommendation tools can boost your store's sales by reminding shoppers of other items they meant to get, spurring impulse purchases, or encouraging shoppers to buy items that work with the product they're viewing. The best recommendation algorithms are based on personal details like customer location and purchase history, but your shop can make recommendations for brand-new customers, too. For example, if you visit Sephora's site as a guest to snap up your shade of Fenty Beauty foundation before it sells out, you'll also see Use It With recommendations for Fenty foundation primer and brushes.
3. They make their shipping and return policies clear and fair.Shoppers don't like surprises when it comes to shipping charges, so put your shipping policy in simple language on every page in your store. More than 80% of shoppers surveyed in the last quarter of 2016 said shipping costs had caused them to ditch their online carts before buying. Confusion about return policies can lead to lost customers and negative reviews, so spell out that policy clearly, too. Nordstrom Rack summarizes their shipping and return policies with a simple statement at the top of each page that links to more details.
4. They offer more than one shipping option.It's no secret that consumers love free shipping, even though they understand that the price is built into the cost of the products they buy. But you should also offer options for people who are trying to beat gift-giving deadlines or who just want their items sooner. Whatever shipping menu you offer, make sure that every option includes tracking. Tracking can cut down on customer complaints and false claims that orders weren't delivered. You can find more shipping tips and information on holiday season surcharges here.
5. They follow up on abandoned carts.From one end of the internet to the other, millions of items languish in shopping carts abandoned by customers. Whether they changed their minds, forgot, or had to get back to work, shopping cart abandonment is the rule rather than the exception – as of November 2016, 78% of items put in online carts by mobile users were just left there. Successful retailers follow up with reminders when established customers abandon items. For example, if I leave a dress in my ThredUp cart, I'll get a reminder email with a picture of the item and a checkout button embedded in the email. A Magento extension can help you recover some of those abandoned carts and raise your conversion rates.
6. They make checkout as easy as possible.Hassles at checkout are a big reason many shoppers ditch their carts. Requiring shoppers to key in a credit card number on a mobile device is practically asking them to go away. Your shop's payment options should include log-in-and-go choices like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Visa Checkout. And now that Amazon's patent on 1-Click checkout has expired, this relatively simple code can work for your store, too.
7. They request reviews from satisfied shoppers.Good reviews can boost sales, because consumers see customer reviews—even those written by strangers--the same way they view recommendations from friends and family. And because nearly 90% of consumers read reviews when they shop online, your store is at a disadvantage without reviews. Encouraging customers to review their purchases can be tricky: it's unethical to offer incentives for reviews, and consumers get review requests for most of the purchases they make these days. You can tailor your review request strategy based on your customers' preferences, your brand voice, and these do's and don'ts for small business reviews.
8. They take customer feedback seriously.You may not like what you read in every customer review. But all customer feedback is information you can use to improve your products, your site, your checkout process, and your shipping. Before you get offended (or worse, angry) about negative feedback, remember that you can use it—even if it comes from site visitors who haven't yet made a purchase. Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, wrote that a profane tweet from a free user made a good point about the early product's usability.
9. They're constantly improving.It can be daunting to read through a list like this and compare it to your fledgling online store, but here's a habit for success you can adopt right away: Great online stores are always refining their site, based on customer feedback, sales, and traffic. You don't have to tackle everything on this list right now, but by continually assessing your shop's performance and user experience, you can make incremental improvements that lead to bigger gains over time.
Monday, December 4, 2017 by Shayla Price
The Ultimate Guide to Building and Using Buyer PersonasEvery customer isn’t the same. Whether you’re running a brick-and-mortar bakery or an online clothing store, all your customers don’t fit the same mold. They possess different needs and interests. And your business must cater to those varying desires. To do so, it’s best that your team develop buyer personas to organize the types of customers entering your shop. “The purpose of creating a buyer persona is to get crystal clear on the individuals who you are marketing to. Until you nail this down, you can’t really be sure that your offerings and your marketing messaging are going to be successful,” states Mary Fernandez, a professional blogger. Let’s make better business decisions. Use the following five steps to build actionable buyer personas.
1. State Your GoalsWith so much happening in your business, it’s easy to forget why you create certain tools. You got a marketing plan, a content strategy, sales sheets, and that random piece of paper on your office floor. So before you jump into creating a much-needed buyer persona, it’s important that you understand how it relates to your company’s goals. That way, you’re not just crafting something that will never help your team. When done correctly, buyer personas give you a 360 degree view about the customer. These insights are critical to closing sales, writing email copy, and revamping brand identity. Actionable buyer personas will align with your overall business strategy. On a granular scale, you may consider mirroring personas based on the sales funnel. For example, it’s possible to divide one persona into multiple layers. Let’s say Customer X buying concerns change throughout the funnel. In the awareness stage, the customer worries about his need for a new product. While in the comparison stage, the same customer focuses on selecting the right vendor. This analysis gives your team accurate information on specific buyers as it relates to their willingness to buy your product today. It empowers you to adjust based on the team’s goals and the customer’s expectations.
2. Research Your AudienceMany companies make the mistake of creating their buyer personas prematurely. They decide the objective and then begin developing the persona. After a few hours (or weeks), teams realize that they don’t know enough about their ideal customers. They understand the basics, like demographics, which only scratches the surface of consumer insights. To avoid this common mistake, the key is to focus on researching your audience. You want to know why they purchase, how they make buying decisions, and what (or who) influences them. You can gather this customer information through your analytics dashboard, surveys, focus groups, and blog comments. Jen Havice, a website copywriter, offers another research tool: “Talking to your existing customers can provide valuable information into their buying habits, what motivates them, and the words they use to describe your product or service. While conducting interviews can be expensive and labor intensive, the answers can be illuminating.” Researching gives your team the opportunity to truly appreciate your customers. So don’t feel unsettled about gathering too much data. More importantly, you should always uphold ethical standards—never share customers’ data to third parties without their consent. Without the proper research, your buyer personas become vague descriptions that correlate to every consumer in the industry. Dig deeper by taking your research to the next level.
3. Create the PersonaWith all your customer data collected, it’s time to actually create the persona. Assembling the information in a concise, yet appealing format will allow your team to easily extract key insights when questions about a specific buyer arises. So remember to develop your persona to fit the many learning styles of your team members. Start by giving your persona a name. By doing so, you make this document real for your team. You may want to add a picture of a real customer. Next, outline the background facts about your buyer, including the age, gender, and job role. Quick bullet points work well here. Following those details, you want to jot down the nitty gritty of your buyers’ interests, motivations, and behaviors. Give your team the reasoning behind your customers’ habits. If all the information won’t fit, you can attach a brief addendum to your buyer persona. You’ll also want to collaborate with your team members about what to add to the persona. Each department has a different perspective on how to serve your customers. Therefore, each team can offer insights on the makeup of the buyer. Ready to get started? For free online persona templates, click here.
4. Integrate the Persona Into Your StrategyFusing your buyer persona into your business strategy is a vital step to turning the document into a practical tool. More often than not, marketers get so bogged down by the persona itself that they forget the true purpose for creating it in the first place. For every department, you can outline how they can benefit from the persona—making it easy for teams to apply the data. For example, customer support reps may use the persona to identify how to best respond to specific customers based on their communication styles. Other teams may see the persona as a guide to update their procedures and refine their current methods for catering to the customer. Copywriter Jessica Mehring provides the following advice to content marketing teams: “Go through all the content you have, and look at it through the eyes of your buyer persona. Set aside or rewrite anything that they won’t connect with. Putting ineffective content in the buyer’s path is going to water down your content strategy as a whole – and worse, it might just confuse your target customers.” Another technique is to design engagement scenarios for your personas. Prepare your team to interact with all your customers in multiple circumstances. No matter the situation, always find innovative ways to use your personas to benefit your business.
5. Evaluate Your PersonaBuyer personas aren’t carved in stone; they are living documents that will adapt to your customers’ lifestyles and behaviors. So make an effort to evaluate your personas once or twice a year. Evaluation can be as simple as updating your customer’s occupation and goals. Or you may need to do a complete overhaul and start from scratch. During your evaluation, it’s advised that you consult with senior management. Learn whether the company will be targeting new personas or if it’s time to remove a persona. You also may discover that the customer journey altered, which greatly reflects the buyer’s purchasing habits. With team input, you can customize the personas in greater detail. Maybe you recently completed customer interviews. You can add these newfound particulars. In the example below, you’ll notice brand names enjoyed by the customer along with the types of technology they use. There’s no wrong or right way to build or evaluate a buyer persona. The main objective is to develop processes that gives you a realistic view of your customer. Accurate information empowers your team to serve your customers better.
Buyer Personas in ActionUnderstanding your customers’ lifestyles and product desires helps your team build competitive strategies. Consumer research at your fingertips refines how you approach your audience. Therefore, work with your team to define your goals and build multiple buyer personas to improve your sales funnel.
Monday, November 27, 2017 by Shayla Price
Chatbots for Small BusinessChatbots are the latest craze in the small business industry. Companies see the value in these interactive platforms to assist their teams and to accelerate the customer experience. Chatbots behave in a human-like manner and can integrate with your websites, live chats, and emails. “While web visitors are tired of seeing another web form and groan at the prospect of having to fill another one out, chatbots offer an engaging alternative. Chatbots are conversationalists and are much more convincing,” says Jeff Cole, the co-founder of ChatPath. Thinking about adding chatbots to your strategy? If so, you’re probably interested in knowing how to effectively use them. Keep reading to learn how your small business can take advantage of chatbots.
Chatbot Do’sJumping head first into new technology can be quite daunting. Your goal is to ensure it benefits your business before you make an initial investment. Chatbots can be valuable for both your customers and team members. Check out what you can do with chatbots below.
1. DO Capture Customer InsightResearch is vital to your business. It helps you learn your consumers’ interests and habits. With those insights, your team can build better products and deliver tailored customer service. Chatbots are paving the way to becoming an extension of your research team. They can gather data by asking consumers simple questions or having customers select a response. Plus, the interaction is less intrusive, as compared to a customer representative who may seem to possess hidden motivations. Craig Cares, a non-medical in home care agency, uses chatbots to quickly assist their website visitors. In the example below, you’ll notice three options: Ask a Question, Book Consultation, and Job Inquiry. Now, their team can filter through requests easily and calculate the types of visitors that land on their site. You require consumer insights to make effective business decisions. Chatbots are a viable solution to gather that much-needed data.
2. DO Communicate Timely MessagesUbisend research found that consumers possess positive sentiments toward companies that use chatbots. Nearly 43% considered these businesses as innovative, while 22% saw the companies as more efficient. That’s good news for your small business. It’s an opportunity to use chatbots as a vehicle to share timely messages to your audience. With so many businesses vying for consumers’ attention, chatbots are a unique way to keep your customers informed about new products and upcoming promotions. Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy, uses chatbots to remind his webinar registrants of the event date and time. The chatbot vibrates the person’s phone and messages the direct link of the webinar. You’ll also want to experiment with your chatbot’s voice and tone. There’s no requirement to engage in a serious manner. Monitor what messages excite your customers; adding more personality may earn positive reactions.
3. DO Answer Customer QuestionsWhile chatbots are fairly new to customers, the idea of communicating with tech tools isn’t. Consumers already engage with automated phone and email support. So chatbots are a natural next step. Chatbots are especially useful for communicating with your audience. As a business, your team can only handle so many customer requests in a day. “The convenience of a bot is immense. It's working 24/7, easily accessible, it doesn't call in sick or have a bad day, and customers don't have to speak with an actual, real person, if they don't want to,” writes Inc. contributor Gary Golden. When developing a chatbot, you want it to have access to your knowledge database. That way, customers with specific inquiries about your product or service can get helpful information, like a video or step-by-step guide. It’s also wise to have chatbots know frequently asked questions. Immediate responses will please your customers.
4. DO Influence Buying DecisionsIn a competitive market, you’re constantly looking for ways to get more consumers engaged with your product. From soliciting user-generated content to hosting a social media contest, you’ve done it all— except chatbots. Here’s your chance to experiment with chatbots to transform interested buyers into loyal customers. With access to your product catalog, chatbots can issue specific product details to consumers, including price and availability. Brick-and-mortar stores can provide customers with their physical locations and phone numbers. More advanced chatbots also can provide consumers with images of your products. This feature makes it convenient for customers to verify the correct items they want without having to exit the chatbot screen. Chatbots offer your customers the flexibility to shop on their own terms. Employ chatbots to get more revenue into your monthly reports.
Chatbot Don’tsWith all those benefits, what can go wrong? Unfortunately, plenty. Being aware of what you shouldn’t do will only help your team integrate chatbots into your business. Grab a pen and mark the following three don’ts down.
1. DON’T Ignore GlitchesWhen it comes to technology, it’s never perfect. And chatbots aren’t an oddity. These platforms come with their own set of issues that your team will need to solve on a case-by-case basis. When they do arise, it’s your responsibility to not ignore the glitches. So what can really happen? Your chatbot could shut down while assisting several customers. This problem translates into irate customers flooding your other support channels. With an influx of tickets (that you weren’t prepared for), customers will wait longer to get their questions answered. This downward spiral can affect team morale and possibly your sales. Chatbots also can drive more confusion than clarity with their responses. Customers may have to ask multiple questions to get one decent answer. Or your chatbot may totally miss the mark and give inappropriate, irrelevant messages like this one: UX and product designer Jeśus Martin encourages chatbot testing with an objective mindset to observe how chatbots react to specific questions. By working with your tech team or developer, you can spot problems before they even happen.
2. DON’T Use As Your Sole Marketing ChannelBusiness teams use multiple marketing channels to connect with their customers. That’s because no one channel will capture the interest of your entire target audience. So it's not in your best interest to make chatbots your sole marketing channel. Instead, you want to use chatbots to supplement, not supplant, your current efforts. Take advantage of chatbots to drive visitors to a specific page of your site, clarify simple product inquiries, or connect customers to the support team. Consider chatbots as a way to take your operations to the next level. Chatbots are especially effective for enhancing the mobile experience. You can dedicate chatbots to serve as a messaging tool to help customers who need information on the go. Their quick responses will ensure customers receive product details in an efficient manner. And that’s what you desire—more engagement Adding chatbots to your marketing mix is helpful for both your team and customers. But don’t rely on the tool as your only means to execute your plans.
3. DON’T Replace Humans with ChatbotsWhen fresh technologies crop up, some business owners immediately think it can replace their largest expense—human labor. A few vendors will even falsely promise that chatbots don’t need supervision. Laduram Vishnoi, CEO of Tagove, offers his insight, “The biggest chatbot misconception is that they’ll take over services and automate everything so businesses wouldn’t need humans to function. This won’t happen; at least not completely.” Chatbots are only a tool to facilitate your strategy to nurture leads, acquire new customers, and maintain a loyal following. Without humans, you can’t configure the chatbots to achieve specific tasks. More importantly, chatbots can’t replace your talented marketing and sales teams. Chatbots don’t have the ability to brainstorm creative ideas, adapt quickly to complex customer expectations, or hop on an airplane to participate in an impromptu meeting with a client. In other words: you still need humans. Look for opportunities where chatbots can offer value to your team’s needs. Chatbots should assist your staff as they find methods to improve your bottom line.
Chatbots as a StrategyIt’s easy to feel overwhelmed when new technology enters the market. But that’s no reason not to try it. Take the time to learn how chatbots can benefit your small business. They may revolutionize your operations and customer relationships.