Inbound Design vs. Inbound Marketing: How To Make Your Customers Love You

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Credit: MOZ

In the world of marketing, things have changed drastically from traditional methods. While back in the old days you had to rely on “interruption marketing” to find and approach your prospects with outbound ads and sales calls, with everyone online these days you can bring these prospects to you you. What’s changed is that massive amounts of content are written and consumed on-line, and leveraging this successfully is what’s known as inbound marketing, and it is fast becoming the dominant trend.

However, while most companies are focusing on inbound marketing as a means to an end, we at Polymash believe that everything you do should be intentionally designed to make your systems as customer centric and profitable as possible.

What are we talking about? Inbound Design. Today we’ll go over how your whole marketing campaign should be carefully crafted to maximize results. Don’t just generate content and hope for the best, design everything to be a funnel and you will notice your conversion rate increase immediately. Let’s take a look and see how it works.

Inbound Design vs. Inbound Marketing

For the most part, when people talk about inbound marketing they are referring to marketing techniques and its content designed to attract, convert, close and delight people visiting  your website.

Inbound design, on the other hand, is a design thinking approach making sure that your entire presence, including your site, emails, social profiles, content you share and other touch-points your customers may have with you are all expertly curated to provide value through relevant content, develop leads and convert them into new customers. Both of these systems work well together, but most startups, solopreneurs and companies are focused on the traditional marketing side rather than the design thinking side. We hope to change that.

Conversion Optimized Inbound Designs

So what do we mean when we say that your website should be crafted to generate conversions and leads? Well, that ultimately means that it needs to be more customer centric. It needs speak to the visitor’s likely needs, appeal to their desires and speak to their likely issues or problems, providing answers and being focused and engaging all the while. In other words, provide value without being salesy or pushing an agenda. Getting your audience to know, like and trust you gradually is the aim.

It’s Not Just About The Layout

So this implies that you need to design not only the layout of the site, but the entire visiting experience to bring your customers in and provide a call to action so that they take part in your business.

Simplify, often there are gains to be had by reducing the amount of information available on your homepage to its essentials, creating more white-space and thinking about the navigation hierarchy and pathways of likely travel through your site. Resist the temptation to talk too much about how great you, your company and services are. Make it about your site visitor instead.

The more quickly and clearly you can stimulate, engage and activate your clientele the more successful you will be and the more brand recognition and loyalty you will earn. Increasingly affordable marketing automation platforms allow you to recognize return visitors and even to adjust what information your site presents to them – all with the goal to be the most relevant source of information you can be. The goal is a more customer centric website.

So how do you achieve that level of success?

Developing Personas and Value Propositions For Each Visitor Type

user experience design services - persona developmentOK, so now you may be keen to start re-designing your site.  Most people understand that before you start marketing you should have a crystal clear idea of who your target audience is. Whether it’s Millennials who love hip hop music or Boomers who want to learn how to cook, you need to have your demographic dialed in and refined so that everything speaks to them directly. The best way to do this is to create and use personas that match your audience specifically. We’ve written extensively on this site about the  Value Proposition Design and UX techniques involved, so we won’t go into detail, except to address this question:

How do you assign anonymous site traffic to personas?

One way  is to produce laser focused content on topics particular to that persona, content that will educate them or even solve a problem. And then offer relevant premium add-on-content, e-Books, guides, tip sheets or other bonus materials they will very likely want to enhance their knowledge further. When registering for such downloads, your email service provider, forms software or marketing automation then “tags” the visitor with the relevant persona.

Instead of selling them on the product or service itself you want to create a strong feeling of trust first that will make them realize why your content, and ultimately your company is so valuable to them. Ask questions, provide examples, and make your pitch as educational, useful, entertaining and engaging as possible to draw your audience in further and further until they are wondering where they can sign up for more information.

Understanding Inbound Design Patterns

At its core, Inbound Design is all about making your website visits work more BOTH for your visitors, but also for your business.

Instead of it being a passive set of linked pages that lets people journey around your site without a plan, this journey should be DESIGNED by you.

So here are 2 inbound design patterns I’d like to share that are working particularly well for this, if you are courageous enough to deploy them. The first one is the concept of the upside down home page, pioneered by Brian Harris of Video Fruit. He’s graciously made a template available on Lead Pages, but this design can be deployed on many platforms, in fact I have a tutorial for doing this in the popular WordPress Theme “Enfold” we use for a number of clients.

1.) What, No Navigation? – Inbound Design Pattern #1 – The Upside Down Home Page Concept

Tip

To get the full effect of this design pattern, click on the image to the right.

Click on the graphic to the right to see or download a larger design template for the “Upside Down Home Page”. The reason it is called “upside down” is that there is no navigation menu on the top of your home page. None. Zip, zilch, nada.

This is also the reason why I said it takes courage to deploy this method, because most people are very set wanting to meet what they think are visitor’s expectations.

However, notice the massive amount of focus generated by the call to action button above the fold. It’s pretty much like a landing page, so there are only few actions on “upside down” home pages that can be taken. In other words,  you are taking control of your visitor’s journey on your site. Of course, if they do opt in, the thank you pages take on an important role to guide them through the rest of your site, but this is one way to accomplish what we’ve been talking about.

And your calls to action can vary greatly. Ask some empathetic questions above the fold that will identify what their most pressing interest  or problem is. Allow site visitors to self-identify and click on something here that offers value or will help guide their journey through the rest of your site. And if your marketing automation platform allows, these first clicks can help categorize your site visitors into the aforementioned personas.

Keep in mind you don’t have a lot of time for this, when youre site first loads you get about 2 seconds before the average person leaves, or bounces. So whatever is above the fold should pull your visitor in, provoke curiosity and provide a particular focus. If the site isn’t immediately grabbing their attention, then they are liable to bounce, and good design reduces your bounce rate and increases your conversion rate.

The rest of the Upside Down Home Page usually consists of testimonials and other social proof, since cold traffic does not allow for lengthy indoctrination essays on home pages.

And by the way, THERE IS A MENU, but it is small and at the bottom of the page, which gives this design pattern it’s name.

Variations

Personally I like variations on this concept where you present not a single call to action, but a set of three, each solving a different problem for a different persona. So here we are starting to combine what we were talking about personas above with the upside down home page layout, and when someone opts in to your offer, you

  1. Assign them a persona
  2. Vary your follow up sequence, messages and offers based on what they selected
  3. Change the layout and content of what they see on your site (assuming you have a marketing automation platform like SharpSpring that supports this)

In the end, the upside Down Homepage converts like crazy and builds your email list of prospects super fast.

2.) The Boxed Journey – Inbound Design Pattern # 2

Tip

To get the full effect of this design pattern, visit the site or click on the image and keep clicking until you see the image full screen in your browser

Inbound Design Boxed Journey Pattern

You may have to zoom or download this to see it in detail, or simply visit the link to Titanium Fitness

Another slightly more conventional approach is one we have employed often with much success. It combines some aspect of the Upside Down Homepage philosophy, but still has the conventional web site menu at the top.

Consider the redesign of a site we recently did for a client in the fitness sector. The site is for a local gym in St Louis called Titanium Fitness, and the proprietor had several very different target audiences she wanted to attract as clients.

Conventional Slider – with a difference

Conversion Optimization geeks like us hate home page sliders. But they can be used for good, here we made sure their most popular offer is above the fold, a Groupon Coupon deal for first time visitors to their Gym.

The “Boxed Journey”

The Boxed Journey section lives on the top of the site and is designed to let different categories of site visitors self select and choose which path through the site is most relevant and interesting to them.  Each box asks some challenging questions to an issue they are likely to want help with. And offers a solution, or at least some help with common problem they may be facing, implying that the solution is not far away.

Each box also offers direct navigation options to reach the portion of the site they are most interested in, and there the offer is repeated.

The owners were creative in working with us to come up with some relevant concepts, and we then produced the downloadable gifts. Now some people won’t opt in from the top of the page, and will navigate further down. But the “Boxed Journey” continues, because each offer box on the top has a related section where more detail is provided and the offer is repeated.

The goal is to get your site visitor to identify themselves by getting into a journey that provides them with your most relevant content, even if that content is varied.

Wait, Before You Go…

Don’t finish your blind date without asking for a name

You have a visitor on your site. They somehow came there via google search or social media or paid ads.

So don’t let them leave without asking their name! In the end, your layout has a lot to do with making that happen. That’s why you need to pay attention to where everything is and how your audience experiences it. And it’s OK to offer them one last chance at your goodies with an exit intent popup, just to be sure they know what they’re missing.

Creating Captivating Content

I guess you’re saying “duh” at this point. It should go without saying that your marketing materials should be incredible on their own, but we want to make sure that we’re covering all of our bases. Whether it’s a blog post, an image, or a post on social media, everything should be relevant your audience and make them want more.

Each blog post should ideally paired with a super relevant, hard to resist, very specific lead magnet or offer. It is this relevance that gets the audience to be more engaged with the material, the more likely they are to follow it to its source so that they can get more of what they like. While most companies are fine with a shotgun approach (quantity), you should focus more on the details (quality).

Designing For The Top of the Funnel

quality content with a purposeThere is one more thing that many people misunderstand about inbound marketing, and where the solution is to apply some inbound design thinking. And that is understanding the difference between content appropriate for the “top of the funnel” vs for the “bottom of the funnel”.

During your initial interactions with site visitors they may choose to download one of your e-Books, gifts or guides. your job here is to entertain, educate and inform, lightly. Initially these should be designed to be applicable to a broad majority of your site visitors and target personas.

As part of our content design services we often help design and strategize such “lead magnets”  for our clients, because we see too many clients with “one size fits all” lead magnets. At the top of the funnel, for first time site visitors, it’s OK for this material to not be very in-depth – the rule of thumb is that these guides should provide value but not take longer than 5 minutes or so to read. And in exchange, at this early stage in your relationship, you may only ask for an email address and not even a name in exchange for your resource or gift.

However, inbound design implies that the process of getting to know, like and trust your brand only begins here – your email follow up sequences are crucial here and also need to be designed to deliver value, introduce yourself and your brand, set expectations and share further valuable resources, and these will gradually become  more in-depth and even more useful to your audience.

Designing For The Bottom of the Funnel

This is where your contacts become interested in your most valuable content, your more in-depth resources, such as case studies or longer e-books. And it is here that start focusing on selling, converting and closing. At this point, your prospects already know, like and trust you, and that makes it way easier and improves conversion %. Your forms can be designed to ask for additional information, such as last name, phone number, industry, company size etc.

And with your audience having indicated increased interest, you can now provide more information about what you do and why you are their best option for filling that need or solving their problem. While the top is all about instant gratification, the bottom is where you can switch to more traditional outbound sales outreach techniques.

Often, this is where qualified leads get handed over from the marketing to the sales team. If you are a smaller business without a marketing department, this is where owning your own marketing automation platform can help you switch from lead generation to sales mode yourself.

Conclusion

In the end, Inbound Design should not be thought of as a tool, but as a philosophy that helps your business grow by becoming more customer centric. The more you think about your customers and the way they perceive and journey through your site and content, and the more this permeates through all your customer touchpoints and marketing materials, the more successful you will be in the end. Think of it as investing in your future.

 

Group coach or facilitating a mastermind online? Some trigger questions…

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Last updated April 24, 2017

Are you a group coach or facilitator?

mastermind online groupIn recent years the tools around facilitating and teaching masterminds online have really taken a leap forward. Video streaming, Blab, Periscope, Hangouts and other platforms like Zoom and Skype have matured to the point where meaningful group coaching can easily be delivered on-line.

The emergence of the “Mastermind Online” format

It is not only the technology that has matured. One popular and collaborative modality of group coaching is the mastermind concept. In the age of the solo entrepreneur, collaborative support and group coaching from peers and like minded entrepreneurs has become not only popular, but almost a necessary ingredient to success. And from our “inbound design” perspective, this format is hugely attractive because focus on the actual participant needs and agendas are built in.

Add to this the fact that physical location is no longer a huge obstacle in our ever connected world, and the mastermind format is a perfect formula for on-line collaboration.

In a peer group environment, facilitation and leadership is still required

Masterminds online revolve around the concept that all participants are getting equal time to talk about what they are working on, and taking turns so that one person in the group may have the “hot seat” and benefit from the brainstorming of all participants in that session. But this does not mean that masterminds can self-organize.

In fact, the role of the facilitator or founder of the mastermind is very important, when it comes to ensuring that people show up in the first place, stick to the agenda, and also in providing facilitator notes and a space for resources.

Supporting masterminds beyond video conferencing apps

Assistive technologies are springing up, and having a mastermind membership site to support the group can be a big bonus. Consider the following possibilities:

mastermind online appsBenefits to the mastermind online participants

  • A central place for replays of each sessions
  • Transcripts of each session
  • Facilitator journals for each session
  • On-line courses and other resources like e-Books
  • Discussion forums and threads for members (instead of Facebook groups where topics are lost in a timeline)
  • Event calendars

Benefits to group coaches and mastermind online facilitators

  • A sales page for your mastermind group
  • Multiple payment options, one-time, recurring, free trials, renewals, credit card changes
  • Automated payment processing
  • An affiliate referral system to reward your friends and colleagues who refer someone into your mastermind group
  • Affiliate Discounts for members who bring someone else into your group
  • Automated book-keeping and payouts to affiliates

 

​ START YOUR OWN MASTERMIND GROUP 

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51 TIPS FOR RUNNING MASTERMIND GROUPS ONLINE

51 tips for running mastermind groups online
  • ​Is group coaching right for you?
  • Fundamentals & best practices
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  • Where the most leadership is needed
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Forget Design! Working Up The Courage For Digital Transformation

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Canary in the coal mine: How often do you need to re-design your site?

We always ask our clients about what insights finally prompted them to take action to re-invent, re-launch or re-design.

The stories that emerge are often quite compelling, and a good indication of how rapidly things are changing in the online world.

In many cases the realization that their site was “out of date” is prompted by lower business performance, less traffic, lower site rank, fewer people signing up to email lists and so on.

Yet a common perception persists that a site upgrade is largely a cosmetic exercise.

This is just a canary in a coal mine, an indication of more important things that may be going amiss.

Unwelcome news – or digital transformation opportunity in disguise?

unwelcome news or digital transformation opportunitySo it comes as unwelcome news that more deep-rooted causes may be at play. Here you thought all you needed was a new theme, or a cosmetic site upgrade, and the next thing you hear is that online behavior and consumption patterns may have changed enough in the last few years to re-examine not only the type of content but even your existing business models on your site.

But “unwelcome news” can actually be re-framed as an opportunity in disguise

We live in an age or accelarating change, disruption and re-invention. Web sites are not immune, and the typical life-span of a site is now 2-3 years. The opportunity is to use the catalyst of re-designing a site to look more deeply at the health of your online business strategies, and to upgrade your content, product and list building strategies at the same time.

Age discrimination – or failing to address shifting demographics?

When we dig down into the causes of “outdated websites”, some folks understandably get defensive about their existing online presence.

  • People are proud of their older sites, even when they realize a change is needed
  • It worked well in the past
  • A lot of effort and expense went into the design

When I was a graphic design a photography student, this is the sign that hung above our darkroom:

The first line of defense is usually to blame the design or visual appeal of the site itself. And the last thing anyone wants to look at are more deeply rooted business decisions or product strategies. And there are usually other, deeper factors at play, as people’s online behavior, preferences and content consumption patterns are continually changing.

  • Attention spans have gotten shorter
  • Mobile devices may be a slight misnomer: it’s people who are in fact mobile, constantly connected and expectating to consume and engage with content on the go
  • User interface design has changed to accomodate mobile responsive screens
  • The rise of short form social media sharing has shaped our communication patterns
  • Email marketing and list building methods (as well as overall content strategy) have changed.
  • If a site is older than 5 years, there is a likely significant shift in the demographic of site visitors

So the term “age discrimination” is a bit harsh – it’s not that younger people are intentionally avoiding our content; we may simply be missing the opportunity to present our content in a way that honors evolving consumer preferences.

Evolving content preferences

I actually seem to see a big “age” related phenomena, in terms of long form emails and newsletters preferences still prevalent with Baby Boomer (50-64) and Greatest Generation (65+) consumers. It requires patience and a certain attention span to read long emails and newsletters. However for consumers below 40, super short skimmable content is increasingly necessary.

  • So from a persona perspective, list building and newsletter success these days may depend on nailing the age group persona being targeted, and being flexible enough to adjust to their preferences in the delivery format and perceived value of content.

I am constantly working with clients my age (in their 50s) that write hugely long form blog posts, lead magnets and emails, and somehow fail to connect with the younger audience that would like to attract and ultimately target.

Some tips to “Shorten Up”

  • Our recommendation is to write extremely short paragraphs, and to break paragraphs up with (H2) headlines frequently. This introduces white space into the copy, and makes content much more “skimmable”.
  • If you have an email newsletter, resist sending entire articles to your list. Instead offer short and concise headlines, a thumbnail image and teaser excerpts that encourage your newsletter readers to visit your blog for the rest of the story, earning you SEO credit in the process.
  • My theory is that writing for short attention span, skimmable content, design patterns with lots of white-space and emphasis on 1-3 minute videos are necessary to connect with a younger audience, and this is a skill that few of us older, “long form” and academic types are good at:)

Evolving pricing strategies for content owners and digital product creators

We work with a lot of content owners and digital product creators, and we often see pricing and overall product strategies for knowledge products lagging behind in a way similar to web design patterns.

The same dynamics of changing consumer preferences apply, and just as some content owners are resiting to shorter content formats, they also resist lower their digital product pricing to accomodate the market.

Of course there can not be a hard and fast rules for this, and I do not mean to imply that the overall value based pricing should be diminished.
But consumer perception on price points for knowledge products and what the market will bear for typical courses or coaching experiences change. The fact that 100s if not 1000s of online courses, universities and learning tools have sprung up in the last few years have, in my optioning, changed the perceived value and landscape of e-learning.

Some work-around tips and possible examples of alternative pricing approaches

  • I see a lot of people re-positioning and breaking up their existing mega-courses or mega digital products into bite sized components that can withstand the markets price expectation and preference for a la carte learning.
  • To launch a mega product or course as the first offering is considered my many to be a productization mistake
  • Modern courseware and digital product environments accommodate free content or courses as appetizers, and then very low cost bite sized courses as the core offering, and finally membership models and premium benefits of “in person” experiences being offered as part of a community site.
  • So in the end the same amount of content can be broken up and presented in smaller and more a la carte ways, while at the same time lowering price points and attracting a new audience.

Conclusion & Recommendations

  • Don’t just think of your site re-design project as a cosmetic excercise
  • Talk to a digital strategist, not just to web designers, and have a more wide-rangingconversation about hidden opportunities you may be overlooking
  • Too many people would rather be hurt by compliments than saved by criticism: Be open to wider ranging changes to your products, services, pricing and content
  • Download our “Ultimate Website Re-Design Checklist” and be honest with yourself.